Last Week in Car Safety News – the week ending 1 November

Bringing you the news that matter in Car Safety is a priority. Be aware of the issues that matter to you, your health and your loved ones in connection to vehicle safety. From scandals, recalls and events, this column gives you a weekly wrap up of the most pressing news issues of the last week.

Did the United States DMCA Help VW Cheat?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, is almost two decades old and is usually associated with preventing pirating of music, however, few Americans know or realize that it protects all “digital locks” across every platform. Yes, jailbreaking your tablet or iPhone is technically illegal, so is of course accessing your cars ECU (engine control unit). In a recent article a prominent copyright activist posited the theory that breaking down DMCA so individuals could access protected code on any device is simply good for security research, innovation and keeping corporations honest.

Many corporations stick behind a “default” no position on the topic of accessing their software because “they know best.” Yet in the last 30 years there have been multiple cases where manufacturers have purposely cheated regulations or standards including Ford and their Econovans, VW and their engines most recently, Sony and their malware rootkit on CDs, LG and their refrigerators and a number of Android devices trying to cheat on benchmark testings. This outdated legislation protects companies without any true checks on them as witnessed by their continued history of abuse. Their needs to be legislation in place that allows exceptions to the DMCA for research, innovation and security research that helps stop abuses of power by large corporations.

Early Statistics on Self-Driving Car’s Safety Record

The auto industry has stated and pledged to have autonomous self-driving cars on the road and ready to transport people by as early as 2020 a mere 4 years away. Yet what is the current safety record of these vehicles compared to conventional vehicles? And do people actually want a self driving car?

For the second question there are some pretty clear indications that people both love and hate the idea of self-driving cars. Almost 44% of people want no portion of self-driving technology in their vehicle, whereas 40% were open to it with another 16% saying they want self-driving vehicles.

On their safety, the early record is promising but mixed. Although the cars themselves have never actually crashed, they have a much higher incidence rate of getting into accidents. They are getting hit by other vehicles, usually rear-ended. This means there is still some work to be done with integrating self driving vehicles into the driving patterns of conventional vehicles.

Car Seatback Standard from the 1960’s is killing people

Did you know the seatback safety standard for cars was first established in the 1960’s and has not changed substantially since then, even though there have been major safety probes on the issue? The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) the governmental body responsible for safety has said in 1992 and in 2000 that they were looking into the issue. However as of 2004, they stopped looking into it.

So the question remains, why is a safety standard that has proven inadequate for at least 30 years, which the government safety organization and auto manufacturers know about still in place? Engineers in the 1992 probe for GM at the time stated that it would cost on average $1 per seat to increase the standard, yet it has not been done. Fatalities for seat collapses are still happening.