Safety auto news

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China to overhaul factory safety standards following GM supplier plant explosion

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Government/Legal, Safety, GM

CHINA-EXPLOSION-DISASTER

Last weekend's explosion at the factory of an automotive component supplier in China has led to a major crackdown in plant safety across the People's Republic, as the country's communist authorities attempt to avoid another catastrophe.

According to Bloomberg, facilities that use aluminum, magnesium, coal, wood, paper, tobacco, cotton and plastic are all subject to the safety campaign instigated by the State Council Work Safety Commission.

At least 75 people were killed and 185 injured in the explosion at Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products' factory outside of Shanghai, early Saturday morning. It's the latest incident in a trouble-filled year for Chinese industry, which has seen 19 separate safety incidents during the first half of 2014, with over 200 people killed or missing.

This latest issue is being blamed on overcrowded workshops and an inability to remove metal dust, according to Bloomberg, leading Chinese President Xi Jinping to call for harsh punishments for those responsible and prompting the safety crackdown across the PRC.

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Mystery movie stunt shoot goes awry in a big hurry

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Safety, Videos, TV/Movies

Movie stunt goes bad

Stunt choreography is a business that really needs to be done properly. A failure in any one area has the potential to not just ruin the stunt and waste a film or TV show's budget, but could lead to a member of the cast or crew getting seriously hurt (or even killed).

We won't spoil what happens in this particular video, which looks like it's from a set somewhere in China (we hear Mandarin at the end, but clear, unaccented English in the beginning), buy it's safe to say that this particular stunt has gone very, very wrong. It's difficult to know if the failing was with the stunt driver or in the planning, but it seems clear that this video wasn't staged - something really did go wrong here, judging by the chaos following the stunt.

It's unclear if anyone was injured inside the car, although it seems that there were no injured bystanders. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Continue reading Mystery movie stunt shoot goes awry in a big hurry

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Safety systems supplier Mobileye raises $890 million in IPO

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Safety, Tech, Earnings/Financials, Middle East

Financial Markets Wall Street Mobileye IPO

Israel-based vehicle safety technology company Mobileye (NYSE: MBLY) has successfully launched its Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange, raising approximately $890 million to value the company at a reported $5.3 billion.

You may have never heard of Mobileye, but that doesn't mean its system isn't in your car. The company, which lists its headquarters in the Netherlands (much like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Renault Nissan Alliance) but operates its R&D center in Jerusalem, develops and produces safety systems for automobiles that combine cameras (instead of radar) and software algorithms to detect other vehicles, pedestrians and lane markers (among other objects) to keep the car on the straight and narrow. While it sells systems (often purchased by fleet operators) that can be retrofitted to existing vehicles, a large portion of its business is in selling its devices to automobile and truck manufacturers for installing in their products on the assembly line. Mobileye lists among its customers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler; Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Hyundai; Audi, BMW, Volvo, PSA and Jaguar Land Rover. The company is said to be developing its own autonomous vehicle prototype.

The IPO launched on Friday was the largest ever fielded by an Israeli company in the United States and makes it the fifth largest company trading on Wall Street. While Israel accounts for the third largest number of companies listed on the NASDAQ, Mobileye chose the NYSE instead, opening trading at $25 per share (higher than the expected $21-23 per share) to raise $890 million for the company's principal owners and stockholders. After a fierce day of trading that saw its stock jump as much as 58 percent to $39.40/share, it closed at $37/share for an increase of 48 percent.

While the company included outside shareholders in the IPO, it was the company's founders who benefited the most. Mobileye was started in 1999 by Professor Amnon Shashua and Israeli businessman Ziv Aviram. Shashua studied at Tel Aviv University, the Weizman Institute of Science and MIT, lecturing at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before founding Mobileye with Aviram, who had previously run local operations like Keter Publishing and the Gali shoe chain. The two were said to have made $92 million between them from the IPO.

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Senator pushes for up to life sentence for auto execs found to delay recalls

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Safety

GOP Groups Campaign Money

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (shown above) has had it with automotive execs stalling when it comes to recalls. The Missiourian has proposed a new bill, the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act, which aims to improve the automotive safety following the high-profile fiascos involving General Motors and Toyota.

Aside from a doubling of the budget for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the next six years and the removal of the $35-million limit for fining automakers, the plan includes a provision that would punish auto executives if it's discovered they knowingly delayed recalls. How will it punish them, you ask? Oh, you know, just life in prison.

The bill "gives federal prosecutors greater discretion to bring criminal prosecutions for auto safety violations and increases the possible penalties, including up to life in prison for violations that result in death," McCaskill's office told The Detroit News. If a delayed recall led to serious injuries, meanwhile, execs could still face a 15-year stint behind bars.

As for that change in the fine structure for automakers, the removal of the limit is complemented by a hefty increase in the per-vehicle fine, from $5,000 to $25,000. With this change, GM could have been on the hook for $55 billion (with a "b") in fines for its bumbling of the ignition switch recall, rather than just $35 million. The News says, though, that NHTSA has "wide discretion" in handing out the fines. Considering a $55-billion fine is enough to sink any automaker, it is unlikely that such a monumental sum would be handed out. Still, the potential threat of such a death sentence should be enough for any automaker to sit up and take notice.

"With millions of Americans behind the wheel every day, and more than 33,000 killed on our roads each year, we've got to do more to keep our cars and the roads we drive them on safe," McCaskill said, according to The News. "Painful recent examples at Toyota and GM have shown us we also must make it easier to hold accountable those who jeopardize consumers' safety. For too long, auto safety resources have remained virtually stagnant while cars and the safety challenges they present have become more complex."

What do you think? Do you agree with McCaskill's proposed bill? Should the punishments for automakers and execs be more or less harsh? Have your say in Comments.

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GM extends sympathy to Chinese explosion victims as death toll climbs to 75

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Government/Legal, Safety, GM

65 Dead & Over 100 Injured In Kunshan Factory Blast

General Motors China has extended its "deepest sympathy" to families of the 75 killed and 185 injured in Saturday's explosion at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products' factory, near Shanghai. Kunshan Zhongrong polishes aluminum wheels for GM vehicles, is a component supplier of Dicastal, a major aluminum parts manufacturer, according to Just Auto.

"For the families of the victims and those injured in this terrible tragedy, we extend our deepest sympathy to them," a GM China spokesman told Just Auto.

The death toll at the plant has risen from 71 killed to 75, while the number of people injured has fallen from 186 to 185. Initial reports claimed that 68 people were killed and 187 injured in the blast, which occurred at 7:37 AM local time on Saturday (Friday evening on America's East Coast). The plant employs some 450 employees.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has sworn that those responsible will face severe punishment, with President Xi Jinping dispatching one of China's five state councilors to the facility, Automotive News reports. Five of the company's executives are currently in custody.

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NHTSA says GM recall website isn't completely accurate

08/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Tech, GM

General Motors-Recall

As of this writing, General Motors has issued 60 recalls in 2014 covering about 25.5-million vehicles in the Unites States. That's a lot of drivers left wondering if their model in need of repair. GM is actually already complying with the request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make these campaigns searchable by a model's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) online. However, the feds reportedly don't like the way that the company has set up its website. NHTSA is requesting changes to The General's page because some cars could fall through the cracks without owners even knowing it.

While GM's site allows owners to search for recalls based on VINs, it only displayed a campaign for a vehicle if the parts were actually available to perform the repair, according to The Detroit News. If the components aren't ready yet, then the model isn't listed. That could obviously have given drivers a false sense of security about their car. NHTSA has asked the automaker to update the website to make it more accurate and to display the info whether or not the fix had been done.

GM spokesperson Alan Adler tells Autoblog that the company first learned about the problem on Friday, August 1. "Basically, the VIN lookup wasn't giving up accurate information," he said. The automaker worked over the weekend to fix things, and Adler says that the majority of the updates are now complete, but GM still has a few more to do. He expects the changes to be finished soon.

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Harley-Davidson joins GM, FCA in ignition-switch recall

08/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Motorcycles

2014 Harley-Davidson FXDL Dyna Lowrider

We've seen a rash of ignition switch recalls this year, especially from General Motors, but also from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Harley-Davidson is joining their ranks with a new repair campaign on some of its bikes, but for a somewhat different reason: some examples of one model might be vibrating too much.

According to Harley's recall filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the problem affects 3,361 units of the 2014.5 FXDL Dyna Low Rider built from January 6, 2014, through June 19, 2014. The report states that "certain optional performance electronic control module calibrations" may cause enough engine vibrations to move the ignition switch from the "IGN" on position to the "ACC" position where only the accessories work. This movement would shut off the engine.

The full defect notice goes into more detail explaining that the engine mount bracket on these models has a resonant frequency that happens around 5,800 rpm. At this point, it begins vibrating the ignition switch and can cause it to change position. The stock bikes only allow engine speeds up to 5,600 rpm, according to the report, but the company offers an option to increase the limit further.

To fix the problem, Harley is replacing the "engine mount bracket assembly and ignition switch knob," on all models, even those that still have the 5,600-rpm limiter in place, according to the notice. Scroll down to read the recall announcement or check out the full defect notice in PDF format, here.

Continue reading Harley-Davidson joins GM, FCA in ignition-switch recall

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NHTSA proposes new bus rollover standards

08/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Safety

Bus Rollover

New rules could be coming for America's coaches and large buses, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed standards that have been influenced by those of the European Union.

The new standards would demand that large buses undergo tests that would see the vehicles tipped off of a platform and onto a hard surface, with a particular focus on the way an impact affected its structure. According to NHTSA, the new standards would also force manufacturers to batten down the emergency doors so they'd stay shut during a rollover, and reinforce the attachments for the seats and overhead storage racks, again, so they'd stay in place.

To be fair, these all sound like fairly reasonable changes in the name of safety. They are, however, not going to be terribly cheap. NHTSA is expecting costs to manufacturers to rise between $5 and $13 million each year, with each new bus requiring an extra $282 to $507 for the changes. Other tradeoffs, including some weight gains and fuel efficiency penalties, also seem worth the benefit of two lives saved per year and four serious injuries prevented.

The blow should be softened for current coach operators, though, as only newly built buses will need to conform to the rollover standard at present. That could change, although according to The Detroit News, NHTSA said it "believes that major structural changes to the vehicle's entire sidewall and roof structure would be needed for some existing buses to meet the rollover structural integrity requirements." It scarcely needs mentioning, but NHTSA thinks that's an overly expensive proposition.

Still, NHTSA is looking at the "feasibility, benefits, and costs of any potential requirement to retrofit existing buses with stronger emergency exit mechanisms and enhanced structural integrity to increase side window glazing retention to afford a similar level of anti-ejection protection for passengers riding in existing buses." Future regulations may include the requirement of stability control.

Municipalities, meanwhile, need not fret, as school buses and public transit buses won't be required to make the changes. Nor are airport shuttle or prison buses included, as these regulations are meant for the kinds of buses that schlep people from city to city on regular routes and tourists to popular destinations.

Continue reading NHTSA proposes new bus rollover standards

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States can't navigate red tape to secure federal highway grants

08/03/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Safety

Georgia Primary Transportation

The push to make American roads safer has received its fair share of help from the federal government, thanks to a robust program of highway safety grants that allow state governments to bolster distracted-driving-prevention programs, install ignition interlocks on the vehicles of first-time drunk drivers and build a more comprehensive graduated licensing system for new drivers.

Oh, wait. That didn't happen? Only five states were eligible for grant money? What's going on here?

With the best intentions in mind, federal safety regulators and safety advocacy groups have gone so bananas in writing the requirements that states must fulfill to access millions in federal funding, in three different highway safety grants, that the overwhelming majority of states have simply passed on the money altogether.

"Incentives should encourage states to reach for the next level in improving their highway safety laws, not be so unreasonable that qualification is impossible," Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told USA Today. "As written now, the incentives have had little to no impact at improving highway safety."

The grants were hampered by stringent requirements and a short, two-year time frame, which the GHSA blames on their failure.

Of the three programs, the ignition interlock grant, which is backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was the most "successful," with four states qualifying for funds. Other states, where ignition interlocks are required on the vehicles of second- and third-time drunk drivers, were excluded.

The distracted driving grant, meanwhile, saw one state take home $2.3 million in funds. Connecticut was able to institute a program that satisfied the requirements, delivering an increasing scale of fines for distracted driving while also including distracted driving sections of the state's licensing exams.

Not a single state, meanwhile, qualified for the graduated licensing program grant. That $13.6 million prize required that states, among other things, not issue a full, unrestricted license until a driver is 18 years of age.

While it's hard to argue with the fact that the measures dictated by the grants wouldn't improve overall road safety, as Adkins told USA Today, the grants "were a good idea that went wrong. They are so complicated and convoluted that in most cases it is extremely difficult to understand what a state needs to do to qualify."

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Deadly explosion rocks Chinese auto parts plant near Shanghai [w/video]

08/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Plants/Manufacturing, Safety, Videos

Chinese auto parts explosion

An explosion at an auto parts plant owned by Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co. near Shanghai has killed at least 68 people, with 187 more injured. The blast has been traced back to errant sparks in a wheel-hub polishing workshop that apparently ignited dust. There were a total of 264 people working at the plant at the time of the explosion.

General Motors confirmed in an email to Bloomberg that the auto parts plant was an indirect supplier that produces parts, mostly plated and polished metal items, for a company called Dicastal, which is a direct supplier to the American automaker. Reports also indicate Volkswagen is a customer.

This blast is reportedly the worst industrial accident China has seen so far this year, and it again brings up issues of worker safety in the country. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, cited by Bloomberg, there have been 19 serious safety incidents recorded so far in China in 2014, with the death toll cresting 200. Scroll down below for a video news report from CCTV.

Continue reading Deadly explosion rocks Chinese auto parts plant near Shanghai [w/video]

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