Human Driver Error(s); Altered Iron


Human driven truck pushes car along highway at 60 mph, sideways. 


If you missed it on the news the past couple of days, you can see the video on YouTube.  In the UK a truck driver missed seeing a car merging from the on ramp and pushed it down the highway sideways at 60 mph claiming he did not know the car was stuck on his front bumper sideways.  The truck drivers license has been suspended pending review.    Luckily no one was injured.


Human drivers, responsible for about 35,000 fatalities and for twenty times that number of serious injuries each year on US roads, are making a strong case for automation.  From what I am reading in the trade journals and popular press, it looks like we are entering the near adoption phase where people become strongly polarized.  Some commentators say that vehicle automation can not be done, missing the fact that the airline industry did it a while back and has procedures for the certification of life critical automation and control systems that they use.  From the aerospace industry people I have talked to they say it is a long complicated process but that is the point, it exists and systems have made it through the process and have been in the air for years saving lives.

Should the ground vehicle process for certification of software, computers, and control systems that go into cars, buses, and trucks be as rigorous?  Perhaps.  We could use the old airline industry procedures today just the way it is but what I am hoping is that the readers of CE Mag Online Edition can come up with a newer, more streamlined, yet just as effective standard for ground vehicle flight control systems and automation. 


“Can’t be done in the USA”.  Regretfully this does appear to be the case.  The people inventing the needed safety systems are not US citizens, truly a case of “not-invented-here”.  Also our system of laws and suing everyone for everything is not something that US lawyers are likely to give up any time soon.  On the other hand, the European Union has made it their collective goal to embrace and encourage any life saving technology that can be added to cars, buses, and trucks.  Each country is trying to one-up or out-do their fellow EU members by enacting laws and legislation to put these systems on the vehicles there.  We can benefit by eventually importing those cars, loaded with safety features.  Too bad that 35,000 US citizens will die each year while we wait.  But hey, that is how things are here in the USA, right?


Volvo, known as safety leader in the auto industry, has said in a recent press release that they inteld to eliminate traffic deaths by 2020.  They would not have issued such a statement unless they are convinced that the technology to accomplish this is available and that they have such a lead in this area that it would be difficult for their competitors to catch up with them.  Now it is up to the other automobile companies to take up the challenge or be left in the dust.  


To accomplish this by 2020 will require the adoption of Advanced Active Safety Systems, or in other words, the vehicle will have to prevent the driver from doing something unsafe or stupid by taking control or being in control of the vehicle from the start.  People prove every day that driving is not their top priority when behind the wheel.  They demonstrate that they would rather be doing other things by doing them while driving.  I say press the green auto-drive button on the dash board and let the car drive itself.  It will be safer for all of us as we go about all those other things we feel that we must while in the car, like writing this column on my Blackberry while my car drives me to the automation store to buy parts for my next big project.  See you in the fast lane. 

Oh, if you don’t have your car automated yet, please pull off to the side of the road before adding your comments at the bottom of this column.   Did you  just pass me reading this column while driving?

A good looking Business Plan was submitted to me by the TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club proposing that they start a Learn & Earn For Fun And Profit 4-H business.  A few additions and a few corrections and it will be ready to send up the chain of command.  The plan was written to get the $1,000 available in seed money.   The idea is to create a store selling 4-H logo items, Robots, things that other 4-H clubs have made, and useful items for the house and barn made from horse shoes by Altered Iron. 

The first official place to try out how well the team works together as a sales force will be at the Northwestern Michigan Fair August 7-14, 2010. If it does well there, they may take it on the road selling at fairs, festivals, and other gatherings that cover the Michigan Festivals Map. Running this business will be their after school, weekend, and summer job instead of working for a fast food chain. With the 11 kids and 5 adults that the club has, a good chance we have enough people to make it work. Perhaps others will want to join along the way.

Since starting to work on this project, I have heard of other 4-H clubs that have started businesses and done quite well.  That is encouraging to hear.   The robot they are considering stocking are cute and come in 5 colors and varying degrees of intelligence.  I will keep you posted on how they do.

Keep track of TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club developments by joining their Yahoo Newsgroup at:

To subscribe to AIMing for Automated Vehicles as a RSS feed: If you are using Internet Explorer to read this page, go to  and add it to your “Favorites” by clicking the little gold star with a green plus sign in your tool bar, then click on “subscribe to this feed…”. To view the feed in the future you go to “Favorites” by clicking on the little gold star and AIMing for Automated Vehicles should be listed there. Click on it and catch up on what is new!


Paul F. Grayson - Chief Engineer
American Industrial Magic, LLC
“small engine and machinery repair”
TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club
“Science, Engineering, and Technology”
390 4-Mile Rd. S.
Traverse City, MI 49686-8411
(231) 883-4463 Cell
TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club:
CE Magazine:

Posted by Paul F. Grayson on March 23, 2010

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