Death by Driverless Car

A number of news outlets are already reporting the first pedestrian death that occurred when an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe Arizona.  According to the news reports, the vehicle was operated by Uber with a human driver for safety.  The woman was crossing a street, at a point other than a crosswalk, with her bicycle.  It should be pointed out that, jaywalking is not recommended nor is it legal in most municipalities.   The vehicle, a Volvo XC90, failed to detect her presence, struck and killed her.  First and foremost, this is a prime example of the fact that we as a society are a long way from having autonomous vehicles take us where we want to go.  Second, there was a human being in the vehicle when the accident occurred, supposedly for safety purposes.  So, why didn’t he take the wheel and try to avoid hitting the woman?  Did the event present itself so suddenly that there wasn’t time for him to react?  Or was he so surprised by the woman’s appearance that he was stunned and couldn’t move?  It is possible that the woman walked into traffic in front of the Volvo with no thought about what she doing.  In that case, she was most likely at fault.  However, we are constantly being told that autonomous vehicles will be much safer and that the accident rate will go down when these vehicles are in common use.  But, what about when the car’s computer has to make an ethical decision?  What does the vehicle do when it has to decide whether to kill a pedestrian or crash into another vehicle and risk killing some or all of its occupants?  Speaking from a forensic standpoint, remember, the movements of the vehicle will be preprogrammed at the manufacturer’s factory based on various scenarios that drivers face everyday.  Are you ready to forfeit your life on the basis of what some programmer thinks is the right thing to do?

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Hyundai Santa Fe Recall

The National Highway Traffic Administration has announced that Hyundai Motor America is recalling approximately 43,941 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport vehicles.  All of the vehicles involved in the recall are for model year 2018.  The problem with the vehicles is that the steering wheel can break and separate from the steering column resulting in a loss of control and possibly a crash.  Hyundai is planning to notify owners and will replace the steering wheel assembly free of charge if necessary.  The recall is expected to begin on March 16, 2018.  Hyundai’s recall number for this campaign is 173.  For additional information, consumers can contact Hyundai be calling customer service at 1-855-371-9460.

Potential Kia Defect

About a week ago, something was brought to my attention which might be the basis for somebody’s lawsuit in the future. My son’s girlfriend was involved in a two vehicle accident, luckily no one was hurt.  My son’s girlfriend was driving a 2015 Kia Soul when the right front corner of her car was hit by another driver trying to run a red light.  The Kia sustained damage to the right front fender, bumper, and headlights.  As accident’s go, this one seemed to have been relatively minor.  However, after her insurance adjuster inspected the car, she decided to total the car.  The adjuster found that a wire that controlled the deployment of the side airbags had been severed during the crash.  As a result, the airbag circuit could be repaired by splicing the wire which wasn’t surprising.  What was surprising was that instead of replacing the wiring harness that controlled the air bags, the entire car had to be rewired!  This meant that the entire body had to be removed and the frame exposed in order to do the work.  This of course, meant that the amount of labor plus the wiring amounted to more than the car was worth, which is why it was totaled.  Now, the potential defect lies in the fact the if the wiring can be severed in a low speed (less than 30 mph) accident causing the side airbags not to deploy, then the protection of the wiring is inadequate.  If the wiring can be severed causing the side airbags to fail, then the defect defeats the purpose of having airbags in the first place.  Has anyone else had this problem?

More Throttle Trouble

Ford and Mazda have announced recalls for thousands of their vehicles involving a sticking throttle.  In both of these vehicles, the throttle has a tendency to stick in the wide open position because of a clearance problem between the  engine cover and a cable connector.  As a result, when the driver tries to slow down  by releasing pressure on the accelerator pedal, the vehicular speed will not decrease.  Furthermore,  it may be difficult to stop the vehicle and could result in a crash.  The vehicles that are involved in this recall are 2001-2004 Ford Escape and 2001-2006 Mazda Tribute.  It seems odd that Ford and Mazda should have the same recall but, Ford apparently contributed to the manufacture of the Tribute.  It should be noted that Ford issued a recall for the same problem a few years ago.  Their solution was to replace the cable.  However, it appears that their solution was inadequate.  Now, the problem is still in existence and over 600,000 vehicles have to be repaired.  In the meantime, drivers and their passengers are at risk for serious injury if they lose control because of this defect.

Recall News

We have updated the News column of our website to bring you the most recent vehicle recalls on some well-known makes. First, Blue Bird, the makers of school buses, have recalled some of their vehicles as a result of a cruise control problem. Basically, the control may not disengage when the brakes are applied. In addition, Subaru is  recalling some of its Outback and Legacy vehicles due  to a lubrication problem. Apparently, a hole that was supposed to have been provided in their six speed manual transmissions was left out.  As a result, the gears are not being lubricated and there is a possibility that the gears will break. If this happens, the driver will possibly lose control due to the loss of power and crash. Furthermore, Nissan is also recalling some of its “Cube” cars.  Some of the 2009-2010 models leak more fuel than what is allowed when hit  from the rear. Dealers are supposed to have a special protection device to install free of charge. Lastly, Toyota is recalling 2000-2004 “Avalon” because of a crack that can develop in the steering lock bar. If left unattended, the crack will cause the bar to break and the steering wheel to lock. The driver could lose control of  the vehicle and crash. Toyota is also recalling 2003-2007 Lexus LX470 models because of a steering shaft snap ring that can disengage. If that happens, over time, the steering shaft can disconnect causing the driver to lose ccontrol and crash.  For more detailed information,  please visit our website at www.rjhill.com and under the “News” column click on “Recall News”.

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