Blog Archives

1 in 3 don’t wear seatbelts

New research has found that people in rural areas, driving for work and the elderly were some of the surprising groups found to be dying in road crashes when not wearing seatbelts.

The AA Research Foundation led a project in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, NZ Police, NZ Transport Agency and ACC to look in depth at 200 deaths where people were not buckled up, and also examine the offence history of people caught not wearing a seatbelt.

One of the major findings was that seatbelt deaths are not restricted to just one group.

“When we analysed the 200 deaths to understand the types of people involved, we found that along with the young, risky drivers that people might expect to feature, the other common groups were people in rural areas, people driving for work, the elderly and tourists,” says AA Research Manager Simon Douglas.

“The vast majority of people wear their seatbelt, yet up to 30 per cent of vehicle occupant deaths in recent years haven’t been buckled up. The research aimed to build a much greater understanding of who it was being involved in these crashes.”

Other key findings were:

  • On average over the last decade, 26 per cent of vehicle occupants who died in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt
  • 83.5 per cent of deaths where someone wasn’t wearing a seatbelt occurred on rural roads
  • 53.5 per cent of unrestrained deaths involved alcohol
  • 36.5 per cent of unrestrained deaths involved fatigue
  • 58 per cent of people caught by police not wearing a seatbelt have at least one previous seatbelt offence

The full research report is available online here

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Drivers struggle to stay engaged

The difficulty of keeping drivers in automated vehicles engaged is a growing safety concern that has spurred several car companies, including General Motors (GM) and Subaru, to position infrared cameras in the cockpit trained on the driver to track head and eye movement.

However, U.S. safety investigators have called on carmakers to do more to ensure drivers stay engaged when using an autonomous vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened three investigations, two of which involve Tesla vehicles, that call into question the progress that’s been made in guarding against motorist misuse of autonomous/semi-autonomous driving technology.

Tesla has lagged behind automakers in embracing driver monitoring. While the electric carmaker still relies on technology that federal investigators said was too easy to sidestep, it’s now working on unspecified improvements to its vehicles, according to the NTSB.

“They have indicated that they have already made some improvements and are working on additional improvements,” agency spokesman Peter Knudson said to Bloomberg, in the first indication that the company is contemplating more changes to its driver-assistance system. NTSB highway investigators have been in contact with Tesla technical staff, he added.

Driver-monitoring technology is needed for any vehicle that needs humans to handle part of the driving task, said Bryan Reimer to Bloomberg News, who studies driver behaviour at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This includes conventional vehicles without driver-assist systems, cars that guide themselves for some periods without human inputs, such as cruise control, and self-driving cars with people serving as safety monitors.

Motorists today are bombarded by distractions, from mobile phones to in-dash navigation systems, Reimer added. “Drivers need help making better decisions.”

The NTSB is investigating two crashes this year in which Tesla drivers were using Autopilot. The system can automate steering and follow traffic in some conditions, but the company warns drivers they must monitor it at all times. The system isn’t designed to be fully autonomous and can’t detect some objects in its path, according to Tesla. 

In the most recent case, a Model X slammed into a concrete highway barrier on March 23 in Mountain View, California, killing the driver Walter Huang. His family has hired Minami Tamaki LLP to explore legal options, the firm said Wednesday in a statement.

Tesla said in a blog post last month that Huang, 38, didn’t have his hands on the wheel for six seconds prior to striking the barrier where lanes split on the freeway.

“The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive,” the company said in the March 30 blog post.

“What Tesla has is basically a sensor that just detects whether your hands are on the wheel,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at researcher Gartner Inc. “If it doesn’t detect anything on the wheel for a certain amount of time, it first gives a visual warning, then an audible warning, then the car starts slowing down. It’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 seconds or longer. At 70 miles per hour, that’s a long time — a lot can happen in that period of time.”

Tesla has installed an inward-facing camera above the rear-view mirror in its new Model 3 sedan, but hasn’t confirmed whether it could be used to monitor drivers.

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First safety rating for the year

Independent vehicle safety authority, ANCAP, today released its first safety rating for the year, awarding 5 stars to the Holden Commodore.

The first imported Commodore model arrives onto the Australasian market with high safety scores.

“The vehicle scored well, achieving solid results across all areas of assessment,” said ANCAP Chief Executive, James Goodwin. “Australian families and fleet buyers have long regarded the Commodore as a trusted local choice and the shift to overseas supply has further enhanced the model’s safety credentials,” he said.

“This next generation Commodore includes safety assist technologies not seen in its locally-produced predecessor, with standard-fit features such as autonomous emergency braking and active lane-keep assist.”

“This year we see a fresh approach to vehicle safety assessment and the presentation of results,” Mr Goodwin said.

The ZB Holden Commodore achieved the following scores across the four key areas of assessment:

93% – Adult Occupant Protection

85% – Child Occupant Protection

78% – Pedestrian Protection

77% – Safety Assist

The Commodore shares its structure with that of the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia supplied to Europe, with locally supplied variants offering comparable safety performance.

A 5 star ANCAP safety rating applies to all Commodore liftback, sportwagon and tourer variants available across Australia and New Zealand.

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ANCAP releases its own safety app

ANCAP will officially launch a new app tomorrow that will provide users with an up to date, in hand tool that can be easily used to compare vehicles safety information.

While the official launch is tomorrow, the app is free and available to download now on iOS and Android.

A screenshot of the app comparing three different models.

The app has been developed to provide a new mechanism for consumers to access ANCAP safety rating information in the lead-up to a vehicle purchase, as well as provide additional safety-related content and features to see the safer vehicles conversation continue post-purchase.

Users will be able to select from a wide range of the most commonly available models, and compare up to three different cars at once.

The app has been developed in collaboration with the NZTA, AA New Zealand and a number of Australian road safety and automotive agencies.

“The road toll is increasing so we must work harder and do more to see this reversed. The ‘ANCAP Safety’ app will assist consumers make safer vehicle choices in an effort to reduce road trauma,” the agency said in a statement today.

ANCAP is Australasia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate and provides consumers with advice and information on the vehicle safety.

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Over 1 million Nissans could be recalled

Nissan Motor Co announced on Friday a potentially highly damaging call to temporarily suspend registrations of thousands of new vehicles, following Japanese government checks found that unqualified personnel had carried out final safety checks at six domestic factories.

Nearly 60,000 new cars are stockpiled at its plants awaiting reinspection, and Japanese officials have suggested over 1 million vehicles may have to be recalled.

Japan today reports that 21 models including the Note, Skyline, and Leaf are affected.

However, Nissan said on Friday that it does not know when the unqualified checks were carried out, or how many vehicles were affected.

The issue was brought to Nissan’s attention after an on-site probe by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism earlier this month.

The Japanese car maker will re-inspect affected vehicles, with a third party taking part in an internal investigation to figure out how the failures occurred.

The Japanese government has asked Nissan to produce a report detailing how it intends to prevent a recurrence of this event by the end of this month.

Nissan’s shares fell as much as 5.3 per cent today, their lowest since April.

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Intel: auto drive cars will lead to safer roads

Intel says autonomous driving will end human driving errors and lead to safer roads for everyone.

Brian Krzanich, chief executive officer of Intel Corporation, has discussed his company’s collaboration with Google company Waymo, and says he sees the venture helping to achieve these goals.

“Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes worldwide every year – an average 3,287 deaths a day. Nearly 90 per cent of those collisions are caused by human error,” Krzanich says.

“Self-driving technology can help prevent these errors by giving autonomous vehicles the capacity to learn from the collective experience of millions of cars – avoiding the mistakes of others and creating a safer driving environment.”

Waymo’s newest vehicles, the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans, feature Intel-based technologies that offer Waymo’s fleet the processing power required for high-level to fully autonomous driving.

Krzanich says that at the pace autonomous technology is developing, he expects his children to be using the tech exclusively.

“That’s an astounding thought: Something almost 90 per cent of Americans do every day will end within a generation. With so much life-saving potential, it’s a rapid transformation that Intel is excited to be at the forefront of along with other industry leaders like Waymo.”

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers are moving into the Pacific. Last week Auckland company Ohmio Automation announced it will establish a production facility to build autonomous vehicles in Christchurch, and French company Navya stated its intention to build a production facility in Adelaide, Australia.



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VINZ to provide global inspection and audit to THL

One of New Zealand’s and the world’s largest operators of motorhomes has voluntarily opted into an independent and random safety inspection program for their commercial fleet.

Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) will subject their fleet to the inspections from Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ) throughout NZ, Australia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

THL operates under the Maui, Britz, Mighty, KEA Australia and Motek Vehicle Sales brands. Within NZ, THL also operates Kiwi Experience and other localised tourism operations.

THL chief executive Grant Webster says that in the RV industry, the biggest health and safety risk is moving vehicles.

THL operate the Kiwi Experience brand, and many other rental and tourism businesses in NZ.

“We do all we can to ensure the safety of our fleet – giving customers peace of mind along with other road users. This initiative is part of our continued commitment to having the safest fleet of commercial motorhomes on the road – both in New Zealand and around the world,” Webster said.

VINZ will carry out the inspections on-site at THL facilities, providing the equipment and staff in each location. The vehicles will be serviced a checked by an onsite mechanic team as each camper is returned and before it leaves the site.

VINZ will provide the service directly in New Zealand and Australia, and will deliver the audits through other companies in Optimus Group (of which VINZ is a subsidiary) in markets where it does not have a direct presence.

“This agreement, and the work we have put into developing a service delivery and reporting model, represents an opportunity for VINZ to demonstrate its ability to provide customised inspection services on a global scale,” says VINZ Chief Executive, Gordon Shaw. “By working with other Optimus Group companies and their affiliates we can inspect to a global standard and also ensure compliance with regulatory standards in each sovereign market.”

VINZ and THL have a longstanding partnership incorporating entry certification for imported vehicles, along with onsite Certificate of Fitness Testing.

Vehicles rented through Mighway, THL’s peer-to-peer campervan hire company, will also be part of the independent testing.

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WHO urges global car safety effort

World Health Organization ambassador Michael Bloomberg has urged car makers and governments around the world to increase their commitment to car safety in developing countries ahead of the 25th International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles in Detroit.

“Around the world, road crashes kill an estimated 1.3 million people each year and injure up to 50 million,” Bloomberg said.

“Automakers — including U.S. and European companies — routinely sell cars without many of the basic safety protections that are standard here at home. Often, they are sold without airbags or electronic stability systems.”

The World Health Organization has said that 90 per cent of crash fatalities occur in low- and- middle income countries, and projects that 40,000 lives could be saved in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico by 2030 if minimum safety standards are followed.

However, car makers in the US and Europe have been producing vehicles for low-income markets without airbags and other basic safety features, claiming that omitting the extra features keep the vehicles affordable.

“Meeting those standards is not expensive,” Bloomberg said. “The difference in building a car to the highest or lowest safety ratings can be as small as a couple hundred dollars.”

Of the 10 top-selling vehicle models in Mexico, four have a safety rating of zero stars, meaning a passenger is not likely to survive a crash. One such model is the American-manufactured Chevy Spark, which has the highest safety rating available in the US.

The NZ Ford Mustang lacks safety features found in overseas models

Several US and European-made vehicles have also arrived in the New Zealand market missing safety features and driver assistance technologies recently, including the highly-anticipated Ford Mustang, which launched in New Zealand late last year.

The muscle car received top ratings from the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but received a two-star safety rating from Australasian watchdog ANCAP. 

“Ford recently unveiled its newest models in the United States, which appear to have more safety assist and crash prevention technology on board, but they’re not expected in New Zealand until the end of the next year,” AA general manager Stella Stocks said in January.

“Also, we won’t know what will be included on the New Zealand models yet.”

The latest Toyota Prius, released last year, also lacked additional AEB technology found in American and European models.

“While it’s understandable that manufacturers want to keep the price down, we urge them not to undervalue New Zealanders or their safety and want to see the same safety features available overseas offered here,” said NZ Automobile Association’s network support manager, Philip Collings, said last October.

“Foreign consumers who think that all cars manufactured by General Motors are built according to U.S. safety standards are tragically mistaken,” Bloomberg said. “It demands an urgent response.”

“Automakers should make voluntary commitments that all of their cars swiftly reach or exceed the safety standards adopted by the United Nations.”

“At the same time, governments should create and enforce better vehicle safety standards.”

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ANCAP gives Ford Mustang two stars

The Ford Mustang has been given a two-star safety rating from car-safety advocate ANCAP. The Mustang V8 Fastback, produced from December 2015 onwards, was the model rated, with other variants yet to be tested. It was the highest-selling non-tested vehicle model, with nearly 1,000 sold in New Zealand since its 2015 launch,

AA motoring services general manager Stella Stocks called the rating “extremely disappointing” in a statement. “It’s not what we’d expect from Ford or any major vehicle manufacturer today, especially when ANCAP testing protocols are well known by all car makers,” she said.

Stocks also pointed out that the right-hand drive Mustang (sold in European and Australian markets) is a different specification to the variant found in the United States. “Ford recently unveiled its newest models in the United States, which appear to have more safety assist and crash prevention technology on board, but they’re not expected in New Zealand until the end of the next year,” she said. “Also, we won’t know what will be included on the New Zealand models yet.” Stocks urged the timely release of the safer Mustang on New Zealand shores.

In a statement, ANCAP CEO Mr James Goodwin called the results “simply shocking for such a newly designed and popular model.” ANCAP tests the safety of adult and child occupants and the ability to avoid a crash. While adult protection scored 72 per cent, which measures full width, frontal offset, side impact, pole and whiplash protection, child protection scored only 32 per cent. Safety assist scored the lowest at just 16 per cent, which ultimately decided the vehicle’s low rating.

Godwin observed the Mustang lacked speed assistance systems, lane support systems, AEB, rear seat-belt reminders and forward collision warning. “Of concern, the full width frontal test showed a risk of serious head, chest and leg injury for the rear passenger.” He said, adding, “There was also insufficient inflation of both the driver and front passenger airbags in the frontal offset test.” The driver’s door opened during the pole test, and whiplash protection for rear-end collisions was “marginal.”

ANCAP is widely supported by all Australian motoring clubs, the New Zealand Automobile Association, the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, Australian state and territory governments, the Victorian Transport Accident Commission, NRMA Insurance and the FIA Foundation.

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CX-9 wins safety award

The Mazda CX-9 has won the AMI NZ Autocar magazine Car of the Year Safety Award.


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Road safety improvements

Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport.

The first of four safety improvement projects on State Highway 3 between Hamilton and Te Kuiti is now underway, Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced today.

The $4.8 million project between Ohaupo and Te Awamutu will include road flexible road safety barriers, wide centrelines, widened shoulders, rumble strips and turnaround bays. It will also include improvements to intersections and access to properties.

“More than 11,300 vehicles travel on this stretch of road each day. These safety improvements will make a heavily trafficked section of the highway safer and more reliable for everyone who uses this road,” Mr Bridges says.

“In the decade between 2005 and 2014 there were four deaths and 18 serious injuries on SH3 between Ohaupo and Te Awamutu. The project aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries on this stretch of the highway by 11 or more by 2026.”

The project is part of the Government’s $600 million Safe Roads and Roadsides programme which will see safety improvements made to approximately 90 high-risk sites on rural State Highways in 14 regions across New Zealand. This is one of 19 underway in the Waikato.

Work is expected to be completed in April.

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