New DOT Safety Rule Will Save Electric Car Drivers’ Lives

The U.S. Dept of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just passed a much more aggressive requirement that could significantly improve a car’s ability to avoid accidents.

I’ve owned two electric cars so far and, sadly, totaled both of them.

The first was totaled because a tow truck driver secured the car improperly when it needed to be towed back to the dealer. That mistake caused $100,000 worth of damage to a vehicle worth about half that much.

In the second accident, the car nearly killed me after knocking me out. It then accelerated rapidly to around 50 mph, hit another car, and continued to accelerate into a rock wall (which was not amused). The accident-avoidance technology clearly failed or wasn’t enabled in this incident.

Thus, the new Department of Transportation (DOT) rule requiring advanced safety tech on all new cars and trucks could have saved my car and me from breaking my back and potentially saved the life of anyone in a similar accident.

This week, I’ll share what happened in that accident, why we need autonomous driving’s Guardian Angel feature, and why this new DOT rule is quite literally a lifesaver. We’ll close with my Product of the Week, the first operational Level 3 car based on Nvidia’s technology to be sold in the U.S.

My Auto Accident

Two days after being T-boned in what is one of the most dangerous intersections where I live, I found myself at that intersection after the sun went down. I was unable to see cross traffic well because it was so dark. I was scared half to death as cars were backed up around me. My view was blocked by a car on the right from seeing what was approaching from the right, and I couldn’t tell the distance of the vehicles coming from the left.

Since my near accident had come from the left, I leaned forward as I entered the intersection not realizing that in the meantime, a car had approached from the right and blocked my passage (I was going straight). When I hit that car going around 15 mph, it fired the airbag, which knocked me out; my foot went to the floor, accelerating me into the car I hit (electric cars have a ton of torque), which pushed that car through the intersection and across the street.

As I accelerated to around 50, I hit a curb, the car nearly jumped over a fence, and my back was broken in the process. I then rammed a rock wall after the airbag had deflated, totaling the car. When I came to, the police had already arrived, and the EMTs and fire trucks were just pulling up.

I should add that so many people have had accidents at that intersection that they just made it into a four-way stop because there were several serious accidents after mine. The business owner on the corner had reported his parked vehicles were hit regularly in similar accidents.

The plan is to turn that intersection into a traffic circle eventually, but given the lack of visibility, it should have always been a 4-way stop.

Electric Car Problem

In a gas car without cross-traffic alerting or active accident avoidance, if you hit a car as I did, the car would have stalled even if I’d tried to floor it, resulting in far less damage and injury. However, electric cars generate 100% torque from a stop, and, as I unfortunately found out, they can not only power through an accident, but they can continue to accelerate at supercar speeds afterward.

Had I not hit that rock wall, I would have accelerated to triple digits and assured my death when I finally did hit something that would stop the car. So, I was lucky I hit that rock wall.

This event exemplifies why electric cars need far more robust accident prevention technology than gas cars, at least for collisions that might knock the driver unconscious.

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