autonomous vehicles, Distracted Driving, LIDAR technology for autonomous vehicles, Self-Driving Cars, Uncategorized

Should Uber blame its driver for the first autonomous vehicle-caused fatal pedestrian incident or is the technology flawed?

A video published by police yesterday raises some serious questions about Uber’s driverless-car technology.

Tempe police released the video of the UBER self-driving car at the time of the fatal pedestrian crash

This video, released by the Tempe, Arizona, Police Department, shows what happened moments before one of Uber’s autonomous cars killed a pedestrian. The driver was recorded by a camera inside the car, looking down for several seconds.  She looks up at the last moment to see someone walking into the car’s path.

Was #DistractedDriving to blame? Experts have long warned that partial autonomy lulls people into a false sense of security, causing them to become dangerously disengaged. Situational awareness (SA) in driving is compromised with distractions. SA means a driver is aware of his or her surroundings and comprehends the variables in situations that are constantly changing. It can take many seconds for a person to regain situational awareness if something goes wrong – not enough time to prevent a disaster from happening, such as the case of the Uber fatal pedestrian crash.

LIDAR—Light Detection and Ranging – is the technology utilized by autonomous vehicles to measure distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of a target. Investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board are tasked with investigating the sensors aboard the Uber self-driving car that failed to spot the pedestrian, who was wheeling her bike across the road.

The scary thought about this incident is that companies rushing to commercialize vehicle automation are already testing experimental systems on public roads – at least 52 companies have permits to test out self-driving cars California alone. Uber has been testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto and the greater Phoenix area for months. Waymo has testing locations in Atlanta, Detroit and Austin. Arizona is also the home for multipe testing sites, including Chandler, Gilbert, Guadalupe, Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe. California testing sites include Carmel, Daly City, Half Moon Bay, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Merced, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Sunnyvale, Tiburon and Truckee. Lyft has a driverless pilot program in Boston and offered driverless rides around the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Cruise Automation driverless cars are on the road in California, Arizona, and Michigan. In 2015, Daimler’s Self Driving Truck became the world’s first licensed autonomous freightliner in Nevada.

Is self-driving vehicle technology moving too quickly for the public’s good? Post your comments.

Distracted Driving, Uncategorized

#JustDrive kicks off distracted driving month

justdrive_$20 offers a host of information about the risks and dangers of talking or texting behind the wheel and other forms of distracted driving.

What is the best way to save $200? Ask the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission, and they’ll tell you…… the fines for talking or texting on a handheld device have increased to $200 for the first offense and $400 for the second offense. Fines for the third offense are a minimum of $600 plus a possible 90-day suspension of driver’s license and three (3) motor vehicle penalty points. Don’t talk or text while you drive, and you are sure to save at least $200 – clever!

As we kick off the month of April, we will be exploring the campaigns taking place across the country to help avoid crashes and collisions caused by #DistractedDriving, beginning with our friends from the Garden State. Watch the videos, read the stories and consider the tips and take the pledge offered online at

Distracted Driving, Uncategorized

#DistractedDriving kills and injures thousands of people each year.

Safe driving requires that a driver master 1500 tasks. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing. That includes hi-viz billboards, talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, looking for a radio station, setting a navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.


Anna, such an eager little girl……


The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration provides tips on how we can all play a part in the fight to save lives by ending distracted driving:


Teens can be the best messengers with their peers, so we encourage them to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted, to have their friends sign a pledge to never drive distracted, to become involved in their local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter, and to share messages on social media that remind their friends, family, and neighbors not to make the deadly choice to drive distracted.


Parents first have to lead by example—by never driving distracted—as well as have a talk with their young driver about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving. Have everyone in the family sign the pledge to commit to distraction-free driving. Remind your teen driver that in States with graduated driver licensing (GDL), a violation of distracted-driving laws could mean a delayed or suspended license.


Educators and employers can play a part, too. Spread the word at your school or workplace about the dangers of distracted driving. Ask your students to commit to distraction-free driving or set a company policy on distracted driving.

Driver Improvements joins efforts to make our voices heard. Tomorrow, #DistractedDriving Prevention Month begins. If you feel strongly about distracted driving, be a voice in your community by supporting local laws, speaking out at community meetings, and highlighting the dangers of distracted driving on social media and in your local op-ed pages.


Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.


Distracted Driving, Texting and Driving

Effects of texting on driving are actually worse for older drivers


Teenagers use text messaging more than any other mode of communication. In an article published by the American Psychological Association, “The Role of Compulsive Texting in Adolescents’ Academic Functioning“, the authors found that many teenage texters had a lot in common with compulsive gamblers, including losing sleep because of texting, problems cutting back on texting and lying to cover up the amount of time they spent texting. Compulsivity is more than just the number of texts, and lead author Kelly M. Lister-Landman from the Delaware County Community College poses vexing questions….. What is a teen’s relationship with phone use where they might feel anxiety when withdrawing from its use?  Do they feel compelled to look at it at all times, rather than just answering texts they get?

A different study from Wayne State University shows that texting and driving can be even more dangerous for older and experienced drivers. “The effects of texting on driving performance and the influence of driver age” demonstrates that for highly skilled texters, the effects of texting on driving are actually worse for older drivers. The study was conducted with a group of 50 people between 18 and 59 years old who were in driving simulators and answered simple text messages researchers sent to their phones. Half of the subjects were highly-skilled texters — people who said they texted a lot, could text one-handed and owned smartphones — who veered into other lanes in the simulator when reading or sending texts. The older, prolific texters did especially bad: all of the 45- to 59-year-olds and 80 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds veered into other lanes. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds and about 25 percent of 18- to 24- year-olds began crossing lanes while texting. The study confirmed what researchers have stated, that there is something unique to the distraction of texting that makes older and more mature drivers worse at it, but they are not sure why this age difference exists. Perhaps older drivers take more and longer glances at their phones when composing and reading messages; maybe older drivers can’t manage technological multitasking in the same way as young people who were born and raised in the age of technology. It could also be a combination of these and other factors.

According to the Pew Research Center, some 73% of adult cell owners use the text messaging function on their phone at least occasionally. Young adults are the most active users of text messaging, with 95% of 18-29 year olds using the text messaging feature on their phones. These users send or receive an average of 87.7 text messages on a normal day (with the median user in this age group sending or receiving 40 text messages per day).

Given the increasing frequency of texting while driving within virtually all age groups, these data suggest that ‘no texting while driving’ education and public service messages need to be continued, and they should be expanded to target older drivers as well.


Distracted Driving, Texting and Driving

Simulator shows firsthand dangers of texting while driving


AT&T’s It Can Wait Campaign –


AT&T has teamed up with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to develop the “Texting and Driving: It Can Wait” Simulator – to show firsthand the dangers of texting behind the wheel – in a safe way.  The simulator attempts to mimic the environments in which the driver needs pay attention to the tasks of driving – speeding up, slowing down, swerving, etc.  Finally comes the crash caused by texting while driving. The message: No one is immune from the effects of distracted driving.

The physical simulator that is made available at schools and community organizations, consists of a bucket seat behind a small steering wheel, metal accelerator and brake pedals, a smart phone perched on a narrow stand by the driver’s right hand, and a videogame-like display on a giant TV screen.  To play the 3D texting while driving simulator online, you will need to download the plugin.

With many public schools haven eliminated their driver’s ed programs, these are good complements to outreach programs that teach the dangers of distracted driving similar to the way the dangers of drunken driving are taught through courses such as those offered at The AT&T simulators are also part of the Friday Night Live campaign that focuses on the dangers of driving distracted, drunk or drugged. The best teachers, however, are the parents, where the adage “do what I say and not what I do” can have deadly effects.

Distracted Driving, Texting and Driving

Texting while driving – bad for teens, bad for adults…..


Texting While Driving – No text message is worth the damage it causes

It isn’t easy to text while you drive – you have to take your hands off the steering wheel, your eyes off the road, and your concentration away from where you are going. Texting is considered the most dangerous form of distracted driving. Statistically, a driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash if texting while driving. The bottom line:  no text message is worth the damages it can cause. Don’t believe it?  Take the “it Can Wait” texting and driving simulator at to experience first hand how you react to conditions presented to a drive while texting.

Teenagers are notorious for texting – it is their lifeline to their friends and the outside world. A recent teen driver survey found that 97% say texting while driving is dangerous.  But adults, too, need to be reminded of the dangers of dangerous driving.  In ATT’s “It Can Wait” campaign, over 1,000 adults were surveyed about texting while driving.  Nearly half (49%) admitted to texting while they were driving, with about 43% of adults calling it a “habit.” Of the adults who admitted to texting while driving, the majority claimed they knew that it was wrong and dangerous, but did it anyway. The study concluded concluded that if parents do not have a rule against texting while driving and/or do it themselves, their young adult is more likely to drive distracted.

ATT has published a fact sheet on texting while driving, and has spearheaded a campaign against texting while driving.  Join the conversation at #itcanwait. View the It Can Wait YouTube channel for texting while driving videos.