Autonomous Vehicles Now Have a New Set of Rules

Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

Last Week, the US Department of Transportation released a policy paper outlining new rules for autonomous vehicles (AVs), otherwise known as self-driving or driverless cars, as both automakers and technology companies race to put these vehicles into production and on public roadways.

Until now, the federal government has refrained from setting and enforcing rules pertaining to AVs so as to not impede innovation with this rapidly advancing technology, citing similar back-seat approaches to past safety innovations such as seat belts, air bags, and antilock brakes. While the issuance of this AV policy paper prior to mass roll-out of AVs for public use represents a dramatic proactive shift in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) traditional retroactive approach, the intention of the policy paper is not to thwart technological advances in the AV industry, but rather to provide guidance and establish a foundation upon which future Agency action will occur.

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Drone Technology

Industry Update: UAS Part 107 – New Rules Are in Effect!

Jon W. Adams, Director of Architectural & Heritage Services ::::

On August 29th, 2016 the small UAS Rule (Part 107) went into effect. This rule will have a major impact on how Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operate commercially in the National Airspace System over the United States.

Prior to this rule, the only way to legally operate a UAS, for commercial purposes, was to apply for and receive a Part 333 Exemption, which was an arduous task. Process aside, the 333 Exemption also required that operators hold “either an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate”…in other words, a license to fly a manned aircraft.

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Industry Update: Audi’s Red Light Detection

Robert J. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive/Mechanical Engineer ::::

As automakers race to produce autonomous vehicles, the need for improved vehicle infrastructure integration is evident. The integration provides a direct link between vehicles and their physical surroundings, effectively creating a network. For example, picture an autonomous vehicle traveling down a roadway and suddenly it approaches a construction zone warranting a temporary reduction in vehicle speed. Communication between the vehicle and a digital road sign or other electronic device can provide information to the vehicle prompting it to slow down. The autonomous vehicle could then remain law abiding and avoid potential hazards.

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Industry Update: Speed Limiting Devices

R. Scott King, BSME, Automotive/Mechanical Engineer ::::

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the September 7, 2016 edition of the Federal Register indicating the US Department of Transportation’s intent to mandate the use of on-board vehicle speed limiting devices on commercial vehicles weighing above 26,000 pounds. The issuance of this Rule opens a 60-day public comment period soliciting input from industry professionals and other interested parties regarding, among others, system cost, benefits, and efficacy. However, although initially Petitioned by the American Trucking Association (ATA) nearly 10 years ago to consider speed limiters in commercial motor vehicles, this Rule would also apply to new passenger and multi-purpose vehicles, trucks, motor coaches, and school buses above 26,000 pounds regardless of use or vocation.

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Water Infiltration Results in Home Damage

Bryan J. Smith, P.E., / Residential Safety Expert ::::

Case Description/Summary: A home constructed in 2002 began showing signs of water infiltration, water damage and mold growth six months later. The home builder took minor actions to correct the leaks, to no avail, and then voided the home warranty. Plaintiff hired an expert to inspect the home in order to identify the cause(s) of the infiltration and identify measures to fix the various problems.

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Guiderail or Not?

Walter M. Wysowaty, PE, CME, MBA, Municipal / Civil Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: The plaintiff was traveling southbound in the right lane when another vehicle, while changing lanes, collided with her, causing the plaintiff to lose control of her vehicle and drive off of the roadway where her vehicle then struck a tree. The plaintiff alleged that the State of New Jersey should have provided a guiderail at this location due to the presence and location of the tree which, they alleged, presented an obstruction within the clear zone of the roadway.

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