NHTSA issues Premlinary Policy on Driverless Cars

NHTSA has issued a preliminary policy for standards on driverless vehicles. A driverless vehicle is one in which

operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode

NHTSA is the agency that we report auto defects to in order to allow for investigations into unsafe automobiles or ones that do not meet safety standards. Prior to the announcing this new policy, there was not a standard in place on these new driverless vehicles. The policy itself, outlines NHTSA research into automated vehicles, definitions of various levels of automation and recommendations concerning states activities with regard to automated vehicles.

We're encouraged by the new automated vehicle technologies being developed and implemented today, but want to ensure that motor vehicle safety is considered in the development of these advances," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "As additional states consider similar legislation, our recommendations provide lawmakers with the tools they need to encourage the safe development and implementation of automated vehicle technology."

The policy statement also describes NHTSA's research efforts related to autonomous vehicles. While the technology remains in early stages, NHTSA is conducting research on self-driving vehicles so that the agency has the tools to establish standards for these vehicles, should the vehicles become commercially available. The first phase of this research is expected to be completed within the next four years.

read the release and policy here.


3.4 Million Cars Recalled

Toyota, Nissa, Honda and Mazda have issued a recall affected 3.4 Million vehicles. The recall revolves around possible faulty airbags that may cause a fire or inadvertently fire causing personal injuries to the occupants. The large manufacturers rely on smaller companies and manufacturers for their parts.

The recall is the largest ever for airbags made by Takata Corp., the world's second-largest supplier of airbags and seatbelts. Due to a manufacturing defect in the propellant for the inflator, the airbag for the front passenger seat may not inflate correctly. As a result, there is a risk of fires starting or of passengers being injured. The faulty airbags were manufactured between 2000 and 2002 in a Takata factory in Mexico. Read more


The recall seems to be centered around cars from 2000-2004. There are reports that there is at least one known instance where the airbag deployed too forcefully. Dealers are likely to handle the required repairs.

NHTSA investigates Toyota, Ford and Honda

NHTSA has not issued any recalls but instead has launched an investigation into various models. First off, 561,000 Toyota Prius are under NHTSA investigation. There have been reports that the steering shaft was not assembled correctly. This investigations appears to be focusing on 2004-2009 model years. In 2012, Toyota had the highest number of recalled cars.

In 2012, Toyota had the most vehicles recalled of any brand in the U.S. market, the third time it achieved that dubious distinction in four years. And it has already had 1 million vehicles recalled since the beginning of 2013.

NHTSA is also investigating approximately 724,000 Ford Fusion, Escape and  Mercury Mariner and Milan vehicles. There have been several reports of stalled vehicles or losing power.

The problem could be the result of several issues including contaminated printed circuit boards and faulty throttle body assemblies. Vehicles produced between 2009 and 2011 are involved in the investigation.

87,000, model year 2005, Honda Pilots are also under investigation by NHTSA. There have been numerous reports of braking issues with the Pilot. The entire article may be accessed here.


NHTSA says 17,8 Million Products Recalled in 2012

NHTSA announced that in 2012 manufactures filed more than 650 safety recalls which in essence affected more than 17,8 million vehicles, child safety seats, or vehicle equipment.

Most of the recalls were initiated by consumer complaints according to the announcement.

Many recalls are initiated by consumer complaints. In 2012, NHTSA received 41,912 complaints concerning potential safety defects, 49,417 in 2011, and 65,765 in 2010. "The role of the consumer in influencing auto recalls cannot be under-estimated," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Consumers are the lifeblood of the recall process and recalls are often the direct result of a government investigation into consumer complaints."


Recalls are an extremely important safety issue. It is vital that consumers are made aware of dangerous products in order to prevent serious injury. In order to review the entire announcement click here.

Chrysler Probe Expands

Two years ago NHTSA launched an investigation into whether an usual number of Chrysler vehicles caught fire after rear end collisions. Originally the focus was on 3 million Jeep Grand Cherokees. Now NHTSA has added an additional 2.1 million Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Liberty SUVs manufactured between 1993 and 2001.

Central to the investigation are concerns of the plastic rear mounted gas tank which may lead to higher incidence of fires. So far NHTSA has received reports of 15 deaths and 41 injuries related to this potential problem.

According to a government analysis, there is “a higher incidence of rear-impact, fatal fire crashes for the Jeep products.”

Chrysler officials downplay the issue, though David Dillon, Chrysler’s head of product investigations, acknowledged in an interview with the Detroit News that, “Grand Cherokee may have more of these events than their competitors.” But, on the whole, Dillon insisted, “Those vehicles essentially are performing the same as their peers.”

Read more here.


Continued SUA Complaints Hound Toyota

NHTSA is now aware of many sudden unintended acceleration SUA complaints being lodged by consumers of Toyota vehicles.  What's new right?  Well, despite Toyota's reassurances to Congress last week, the vehicles cited in these new complaints are ones that have already been fixed pursuant to the recommended recall.  Is the recall fix not working?  Is it being performed incorrectly?  Stay tuned as we bring you the latest on Toyota's sudden acceleration saga.  The Wall Street Journal has more in depth here (subscription required).

Attorneys at the Law Office of D. Hardison Wood are currently investigating a number of SUA complaints in Toyota vehicles.  If you or a loved one has been affected by a sudden acceleration, please feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience.

MADD CEO tapped to head NHTSA

President Obama has asked Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) CEO, Charles Hurley to be the next administrator of NHTSA. The White House said that in addition to is work on drunk driving issues, Hurley has also an extensive background working on air bag, seat belt teen driving and child passenger safety  issues. All of which are very near and dear to our law firm. We focus on all areas of products liability, including child safety, air bag non deployment, car fires, roof crush, roll overs, and more.

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has already is looking to the new administrator and NHTSA to address roof crush issues sooner rather than later.

The current roof standard has been in place since 1973, before SUVs were a common mode of consumer transportation. The roof crush standard addresses the safety of vehicles’ roofs to withstand pressure when involved in rollover accidents.

NHTSA was required to deliver a roof crush standard to Congress by July 1, 2008, but was ordered by Congress to strengthen their proposed rule because it did not significantly reduce loss of life and prevent injury.  NHTSA asked for an extension until December 15, 2008, and then revised the date for issuing the final rule to April 30, 2009.