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EV Come Home – Part 5, Safety Issues

December 28, 2009
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Pick On Someone your Own Size

Here are a couple of interesting stories about electric car safety concerns. First is what happens when your lightweight future car is in an accident with larger vehicles. The second is how we keep pedestrians safe from our stealthy silent electric cars.

On 12/03/09, I wrote a post “Advanced Composites For Future Cars” about the advantages of composites for small car safety design.

The below photo essay shows what happened to a new Tesla only fourteen days on the road and 400 miles on it when it was attacked from behind by a Prius. The story is from Zoomi Life, a blog dedicated to electric scooters, electric bicycles, and other alternative electric transportation technologies.

So you borrow your friend’s Tesla Roadster and are stopped at a construction zone waiting to get through. Suddenly a jealous Toyota Prius driver rams you from behind, pushing you underneath a nature-hating SUV driver and totaling your friend’s $120,000.00 car.

The Tesla exhibited good crash worthiness along with its sexy good looks and dazzling performance. You can learn more about how Tesla uses carbon fiber to add strength to their body design at the below post.

The underside of the Tesla Roadster’s carbon fiber rear panel

Selecting the right body material and manufacturing process was crucial to achieving our goal. We ultimately chose carbon fiber, a material you will see in few cars available at the Tesla Roadster’s price point. Each Tesla Roadster that rolls off the production line sports a skin made from lightweight carbon fiber/epoxy composite that took two years of design, prototyping, test, redesign, retest, meetings and arguments to develop. By Barrie Dickinson, Director of Body Engineering, Tesla Motors.

Be A Lert!

One of the odd complaints and concerns we hear about EVs is their near silent running characteristics. We are accustomed to noisy, smelly cars rumbling around our roads and neighborhoods. There are safety concerns for people with poor vision as well as kids and pets who will be sharing the streets with the new quiet cars. It’s a bit like grousing about the whoosh of a windmill, really.

Electric vehicles could emit car sounds as they approached walkways and intersections. You might even be able to choose a roar of your dreams, a Ferrari or Harley perhaps. You might have to pay for copyrighted sounds though, like ringtones. Trouble is, I hate everyones’ ringtones, except mine – which are delightful and funny. And what a shame to add noise pollution to the environment, should we add a smoke belching option too?

It is a more serious concern for the non-sighted and for people (students) crossing busy streets while texting or talking, oblivious to surrounding traffic. The below article is about an innovative system being developed by the YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory in Japan that was just demonstrated. It uses cell phone and Ultra Wide Band (UWB) technology to alert pedestrians.

See Tech-On article: Human-vehicle Interaction System Developed by Using UWB

With the system, a pedestrian can know the accurate distance to an approaching EV.

I am surprised there are not more smart cane types of tech available to the blind. October 15, was “White Cane Safety Day.” President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law 45 years ago to promote safety and independence among people who are blind and visually impaired. There should have been more progress in adding sensors, communications and smarts to these kinds of canes.

A “SmartStick” with a Bluetooth connected smartphone should be able to provide navigation, GPS, collision avoidance, 911 and other ComNav assistance to those who need it. A smart cane with RFID tech for navigation is being developed by smart and alert students at Central Michigan University. See a demo…

Before too long, smart cars and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will warn and protect us from vehicle, people  and other kinds of collisions (not likely to help Tiger Woods out of a jam).  However,  we should be always be alert when we drive or are around machines, smart or dumb, especially when piloted by people.

More on ITS in future posts…

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