Automatic Emergency Braking seems to work on trucks, the FTC clamps down on a dealer group, senators wonder what’s taking NHTSA so long. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Automatic Braking Seems Effective On Trucks
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has published a press release titled “Autobrake slashes rear-end crash rates for pickups, but few are equipped.” The writeup cites a study by the company’s vice president of research, Jessica Cicchino — a study that points out how important AEB appears to be when it comes to reducing rear-end collisions in pickups, which are bigger and heavier and thus not exactly vehicles you want to be rear-ended by. From the Insurance Institute:
Cicchino examined police-reported crashes from 25 states for 2017-20 and calculated the rate at which pickups rear-ended other vehicles per registered vehicle year. She found that the rate was 43 percent lower for pickups equipped with AEB than for those without it. Rear-end injury crash rates were 42 percent lower. There was also a 77 percent reduction in serious and fatal injury crash rates associated with AEB, but that figure was not statistically significant.
“These numbers confirm that AEB is reducing crashes for pickups, just as it is for cars, SUVs and large trucks,” said Cicchino. “The faster automakers can make sure that every pickup they sell has this important safety feature, the better.”
Oh, and a little background on AEB, if you’re not too familiar:
AEB systems use various types of sensors, such as cameras, radar, or lidar, to detect when a vehicle is getting too close to one in front of it. Most issue a warning to get the driver’s attention, precharge the brakes to maximize their effect, and then apply the brakes automatically if the driver doesn’t respond.
While automatic emergency braking is generally effective at the speeds seen on urban streets and in traffic jams, systems generally aren’t as good at avoiding collisions at higher speeds, the IIHS implies in its press release. In addition, AEB doesn’t benefit all road users equally; earlier IIHS testing found AEB to be fairly crap at detecting pedestrians in the dark, so it’s important to not view this technology as a fix-everything band-aid. Still, effectiveness in rear-end collisions offers real benefits, so it’s still a safety net worth having, as the IIHS notes:
This weight difference helps explain why pickups are more than 2½ times as likely to kill the driver of a struck car in a two-vehicle crash as another car. Pickups are also more likely than cars to kill pedestrians when they strike them.
Despite that heightened risk, automakers haven’t installed AEB on pickups as quickly as other vehicles.
Instead of playing catch up on pickups, manufacturers should move to equip all new models with AEB that works at higher speeds and detects pedestrians in the dark as well as the daytime. Pickups are driven more often than other types of passenger vehicles in rural areas, where average speeds are higher, and roads typically lack streetlights. In 2020, 28 percent of U.S. rear-end crashes in which a pickup was the striking vehicle happened at speed limits of 55 mph or higher, compared with only 23 percent of crashes in which the striking vehicle was a car and 20 percent in which the striking vehicle was an SUV.
One instance where I can really see AEB working well on pickup trucks is in low-speed shunts with tiny vehicles. Due to the hood heights on some modern trucks, cars like Miatas can simply disappear from view and be swallowed up by trucks’ forward blind spots. A low-speed traffic light shunt is expensive and aggravating for everyone involved, so automatic emergency braking sounds particularly useful there.
The FTC Clampdown On Dealerships Has Already Started
Hey, remember when FTC regulators first claimed they’d clamp down hard on dealership practices? It seems like we’re already starting to see the fruits of that promise. Automotive News reports that the FTC will send 66,355 Napleton Automotive clients checks as part of a settlement over alleged discrimination and junk fees. From the news site:
Napleton Automotive, of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., in March was the subject of a suit the FTC and the State of Illinois filed alleging that employees were adding illegal junk fees for unwanted add-ons to vehicle purchases and charging more in financing for Black consumers.
The joint complaint cited eight Napleton dealerships in Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania and Missouri and a general manager of two Illinois dealerships accused of adding junk fees and other products illegally, such as paint protection, in contracts as long as 60 pages.
In April, the dealership group in a statement “vehemently denied any wrongdoing.” The group said it “reluctantly determined” to settle the case “to avoid the disruption of an ongoing dispute with the government.”
Add all 66,355 checks up and they should total out to $9.8 million. While that only works out to $147.69 per customer, it’s good to see some money returning to customers’ hands rather than going into the government’s pockets. While a settlement certainly isn’t a legal acknowledgement of guilt, I’m interested in seeing where the FTC goes next with this car dealership focus.
Senators Wonder What’s Up With NHTSA
While NHTSA has been granted authorization to implement several new safety mandates, members of congress are accusing the Administration of inaction. According to Reuters, Democratic senators are wondering why the hell NHTSA is taking so long.
Senators Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown, Dick Durbin, Jack Reed, Ron Wyden and others wrote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking the agency to explain its lack of progress in writing new regulations mandated by Congress.
A 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure law signed into law in 2021 includes 10 new auto safety provisions including “modernizing standards” for crash avoidance technologies, automatic engine shutoff devices and headlights, the letter said.
“When issuing new safety measures, regulators have too often crawled through yellow lights or stalled at red lights,” the letter said. “Congress gave NHTSA the green light to put its pedal to the metal to reduce motor vehicle fatalities.”
Jesus, that’s a corny-ass metaphor. Anyway, part of the reason NHTSA seems slow to move may be managerial. NHTSA doesn’t currently have a Senate-confirmed administrator, which could have an impact on pacing. Part of the slowness could also be that regulating cars is really hard. It requires a look at cost, timeliness, effectiveness, and feasibility of rollout. I’m no expert on this, but a one-year timeline on certain vehicle technology mandates could be tough as engineers need to develop solutions, buyers need to acquire components, and assembly line workers need to be trained on installing certain bits of tech. Maybe certain senators need a better grasp on model cycles.
Ford Beefs Up The Three-Cylinder Bronco Sport
Here’s one that seems like a no-brainer. Rather than restrict off-road goodies to the top trim of the Bronco Sport, Ford’s developed a package for three-cylinder Big Bend and Outer Banks models to aid customers intent on venturing off the beaten path. Called the Black Diamond Off-Road Package, it consists of skid plates for the powertrain and fuel tank, all-terrain tires, and some matte black graphics. Yeah, this box on the options list seems like it’s worth ticking.
In addition to the off-road package, Ford’s expanding its Bronco Off-Roadeo off-road experience to all Bronco Sport owners, a solid move considering the importance of wheeling safely and considerately. Plus, it seems like quite the successful program already. Mark Grueber, Ford’s Enthusiast Vehicle Marketing Manager, shared some solid statistics in a recent media release.
“Today, nearly 90% of Bronco Sport customers that attend Off-Roadeo are likely to go off-roading again, and 97% of customers are more knowledgeable and confident doing so, furthering our goal of getting into the wild.”
I’m all for more people getting off the beaten path, so long as best trail practices are followed. Anyway, the Black Diamond Off-Road Package adds $1,295 to the price of a Bronco Sport, which seems alright for a set of skid plates, a set of different alloy wheels, and a set of tires. Expect it to be available in April of 2023.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Tuesday, everyone. We’re almost midway through the week, so let’s play a little game. Imagine that you’ve been given a blank check to buy a car with a name that starts with the first letter or number of your screen name. What are you buying?
Lead photo credit: Ford