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Autonomous Vehicle Implementation Predictions: Implications for Transport Planning

February 27, 2015 Comments off

Autonomous Vehicle Implementation Predictions: Implications for Transport Planning (PDF)
Source: Victoria Transportation Policy Institute

This report explores the impacts that autonomous (also called self-driving, driverless or robotic) vehicles are likely to have on travel demands and transportation planning. It discusses autonomous vehicle benefits and costs, predicts their likely development and implementation based on experience with previous vehicle technologies, and explores how they will affect planning decisions such as optimal road, parking and public transit supply. The analysis indicates that some benefits, such as independent mobility for affluent non-drivers, may begin in the 2020s or 2030s, but most impacts, including reduced traffic and parking congestion (and therefore road and parking facility supply requirements), independent mobility for low-income people (and therefore reduced need to subsidize transit), increased safety, energy conservation and pollution reductions, will only be significant when autonomous vehicles become common and affordable, probably in the 2040s to 2060s, and some benefits may require prohibiting human-driven vehicles on certain roadways, which could take longer.

Emergency Department Visits for Motor Vehicle Traffic Injuries: United States, 2010–2011

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Emergency Department Visits for Motor Vehicle Traffic Injuries: United States, 2010–2011
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Key findings
Data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2010–2011

  • In 2010–2011, the emergency department (ED) visit rate for motor vehicle traffic injuries was highest among persons aged 16–24 years. The rates declined with age after 16–24, with rates for those aged 0–15 similar to those 65 and over.
  • The overall ED visit rate for motor vehicle traffic injuries was higher among non-Hispanic black persons compared with non-Hispanic white and Hispanic persons.
  • Imaging services were ordered or provided at 70.2% of ED visits for motor vehicle traffic injuries, which was higher than for other injury-related ED visits (55.9%).
  • About one-half of ED visits for motor vehicle traffic injuries had a primary diagnosis of sprains and strains of the neck and back, contusion with intact skin surface, or spinal disorders.

CRS — The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (January 16, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates that U.S. transportation fuel must contain a minimum volume of biofuel, is a federal statutory requirement. The mandated minimum volume increases annually, and can be met using both corn-starch ethanol and advanced biofuels. In order for a biofuel to be applied toward the mandate, it must meet certain environmental and biomass feedstock criteria. A variety of factors (e.g., infrastructure, technology, weather, the “blend wall,” and federal assistance) have led to challenges, including delays by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting the annual volume standards and a lack of cellulosic biofuel production. Further, it is not clear how declining oil and gasoline prices will impact the biofuel industry. Challenges in implementing the RFS have led to investigations of the RFS by some in Congress, and to court rulings. More specifically, the 113th Congress held seven hearings where the RFS or renewable fuels was the focus or a recurring topic of discussion, and since 2010 there have been five legal challenges regarding EPA’s administration of the RFS. Because of concerns about the implementation and feasibility of the RFS, some Members of Congress have questioned whether it is time to amend or repeal the RFS, or to maintain the status quo.

This report provides a basic description of the RFS, including some of the widely discussed issues.

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States

February 12, 2015 Comments off

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Commonly considered strategies for reducing the environmental impact of light-duty transportation include using alternative fuels and improving vehicle fuel economy. We evaluate the air quality-related human health impacts of 10 such options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology. Our approach combines spatially, temporally, and chemically detailed life cycle emission inventories; comprehensive, fine-scale state-of-the-science chemical transport modeling; and exposure, concentration–response, and economic health impact modeling for ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Markey Report Reveals Automobile Security and Privacy Vulnerabilities

February 9, 2015 Comments off

Markey Report Reveals Automobile Security and Privacy Vulnerabilities
Source: Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass)

New standards are needed to plug security and privacy gaps in our cars and trucks, according to a report released today by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). The report, called Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk and first reported on by CBS News’ 60 Minutes, reveals how sixteen major automobile manufacturers responded to questions from Senator Markey in 2014 about how vehicles may be vulnerable to hackers, and how driver information is collected and protected.

The responses from the automobile manufacturers show a vehicle fleet that has fully adopted wireless technologies like Bluetooth and even wireless Internet access, but has not addressed the real possibilities of hacker infiltration into vehicle systems. The report also details the widespread collection of driver and vehicle information, without privacy protections for how that information is shared and used.

Senator Markey posed his questions after studies showed how hackers can get into the controls of some popular vehicles, causing them to suddenly accelerate, turn, kill the brakes, activate the horn, control the headlights, and modify the speedometer and gas gauge readings. Additional concerns came from the rise of navigation and other features that record and send location or driving history information. Senator Markey wanted to know what automobile manufacturers are doing to address these issues and protect drivers.

Drunk driving declines, while drug use behind the wheel rises

February 9, 2015 Comments off

Drunk driving declines, while drug use behind the wheel rises
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The nation’s decades-long campaign to combat drunk driving continues to make our roads safer, but use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent on the highways, creating new safety questions, according to a pair of ground-breaking studies released today by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One study, the latest version of NHTSA’s Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since the first Roadside Survey in 1973. But that same survey found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. In the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.

A second survey, the largest of its kind ever conducted, assessed whether marijuana use by drivers is associated with greater risk of crashes. The survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.

This was the most precisely controlled study of its kind yet conducted, but it measured the risk associated with marijuana at the levels found among drivers in a large community. Other studies using driving simulators and test tracks have found that marijuana at sufficient dosage levels will affect driver risk.

Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle have fallen by more than a third in three years, the latest IIHS calculations of driver death rates show. Among 2011 models, a record nine vehicles have driver death rates of zero. However, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide, and three cars have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicle years.

Improved vehicle designs and safety technology have a lot to do with the continuing decline in fatality risk. In a related study, Institute researchers estimated how much of the decline was due to changes in the vehicle fleet during 1985-2012. They found that vehicle changes — including improved structural designs, the addition of safety features and an evolving mix of vehicle types — were the main source of declining risk from 1993 through 2006. These changes continued to contribute to later declines as well, though other factors such as the weak economy also appear to have played a role.

There were 7,700 fewer driver deaths in 2012 alone than there would have been had vehicles remained the same since 1985.

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