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Tesla: After the Crash

by Roger Lanctot | 8月 23, 2016

The funny thing about pitching new cars to the general public these days is that no one really wants to think about ever getting into a crash.  There was a time when General Motors counted on OnStar as a deciding factor in selling cars because of its post-crash prophylaxis of automatically summoning assistance.

A couple decades of declining highway fatalities in the U.S. and the emergence of smartphones seems to have eliminated this concern for post-crash measures.  In spite of this growing indifference, car companies, app developers, first responders and public authorities continue to work on this application space.

Where GM led and BMW later collaborated in developing algorithms for determining crash severity to better assess the nature of the emergency response, new innovators have stepped forward.  Mercedes has taken something of a leadership position with two novel if not widely recognized or understood solutions: Rescue Assist and Pre-Safe Sound.

Pre-Safe Sound, available on the new Mercedes E-Class, is capable of detecting an impending crash and sending a so-called “pink-noise” signal triggering the human ear’s natural defenses against the loud noises of a crash.  Rescue Assist consists of a QR code affixed to the door frame providing first responders with vital information regarding the location of airbags, seatbelt tensioners, batteries and other structural and functional systems in the car capable of posing a hazard to emergency technicians.

https://youtu.be/6VszIAKLpFw - Rescue Assist explanation – Mercedes

After a crash has happened it would be ideal for the car to have an OnStar-like system to summon assistance.  Too many car makers have embraced connectivity but failed to integrate what is called automatic crash notification.  Audi has corrected this flaw in its connectivity strategy with its latest LTE embedded systems. 

Tesla has yet to embrace the concept of automatic crash notification - an oversight that looks increasingly obvious and embarrassing with each new Tesla crash.  Two of the most recent Tesla crashes may highlight yet another missing piece of post-crash kit.

While we all have come to expect airbags to deploy in the event of a crash we may take for granted the fact that a car will come to a stop after a collision.  Most, though perhaps not all cars, have a post-crash braking system supported by the airbag sensors. 

Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, for example, automatically initiates braking after the vehicle suffers a collision, and brakes for as long as necessary to reduce the speed of the vehicle to 6mph in order to prevent or minimize the severity of subsequent collisions.  It is standard on many VW’s.

http://tinyurl.com/jdy72yx - Automatic Post-Crash Braking System – Volkswagen

It may be that, just like automatic crash notification, post-crash braking is not included in Tesla’s.  Judging from the post-crash behavior of the Tesla Model S involved in the recent fatal crash in Florida it seems that the car failed to detect a crash and continued driving through two fences before hitting a utility pole.

While it is possible that the initial drive-under crash, which may have only impacted the A pillars, might have failed to trigger the airbags, a more recent crash suggests a lack of post-crash preparation.  The latest incident, reported last week, involved a Tesla Model S impacting a guard rail multiple times before coming to a stop.

http://tinyurl.com/jy9wcs6 - “Tesla Owner in Autopilot Crash Won’t Sue, But Car Insurer May” – Bloomberg.com

In fact, in the latest incident, the driver says the Tesla continued to accelerate AFTER impacting the guard rail the first time.  The Tesla experience suggests a certain degree of complacency when it comes to the post-crash behavior of automobiles or even the basic recognition of the fact that cars can and do crash.

While the goal of auto makers is increasingly to avoid crashes altogether, it is premature to presume that we have solved this problem or that it occurs too infrequently to matter.  Car companies can and should be mindful of preparing the car and its occupants when a crash is imminent and appropriately enabling emergency communications and facilitating safe interaction with a disabled vehicle for first responders post-crash.

It’s not too much to ask.  It’s an obligation.

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