What price safety?
by: David Fierro
I recently had the opportunity to attend a Zero Fatalities ambassador training session.
It was an eye opener.
The first thing I did after the training was contact the people I care about and ask them to please put away their phones when they are driving. Texting while driving has emerged as the leading cause of highway crashes and fatalities, surpassing driving under the influence.
It has become a national epidemic.
Which brings me to a statement made recently by outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Speaking of the new intelligent vehicle technology, LaHood said the technology will save lives but the cost of the systems will determine consumer acceptance of such technology.
I understand the fiscal reality LaHood acknowledges. Agencies such as US DOT live in a federal budget world and the cost of technology has to be a critical part of any equation.
But what value do we place on the 33,000 lives we lose on the highway every year?
"These are definitely safer vehicles. At what cost though?" Ray LaHood told reporters at a connected-vehicle conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "To me, that's what the bottom line's going to be. Safety has a cost and we're going to have to make that judgment."
LaHood declined to estimate what the cost of the technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other and surrounding infrastructure would need to be to attract wide adoption by consumers.
"It will be up to car manufacturers to help us figure out what the cost of all this is going to be," LaHood said at a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute conference.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan fitted almost 3,000 cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles with wireless devices that track other vehicles' speed and location, alert drivers to congestion, or change a traffic light to green.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication may help avoid or reduce the severity of four out of five crashes that occur when a driver is not impaired, U.S. regulators have said.
Results from the study will help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decide whether the technology should be mandatory. A decision on such a rule will not be made until the testing in completed in August, officials have said.
If we could help avoid or reduce the severity of four out of five crashes we should find a way to open that checkbook.
David Fierro, Editor & Publisher
Southern Parkway project uncovers ancient artifacts
By Sarah Stephenson and Stephanie Fulton
ST. GEORGE—The Southern Utah Parkway is a 33-mile project that will eventually become an eastern belt route for Washington County. Eight miles are complete from I-15 to the new St. George Airport. The third segment of the parkway is currently under construction at Washington Dam Road, where more than 15 archaeological sites have been found.
Crews have discovered Virgin Anasazi remains, one of which has been named the oldest site in southwestern Utah. After significant research, scientists have discovered that the area has had continuous human habitation for 1,000 years.
UDOT has worked closely with local Native American tribes throughout the project. The Shivwits tribe, a native Utah tribe, was invited to the archaeological sites to gather buried human remains found during construction. They were also highly involved in the decision-making process regarding the preservation of the many artifacts found.
Arrowheads, pottery, pit-houses and even prehistoric artifacts including dinosaur fossils have been discovered throughout the project site and have been dated as far back as 400 B.C. During construction, 200-million-year-old fossils were also found, including the teeth from nine species, three of which could be new species. These were archived for future data and research.
Furthermore, UDOT has worked to protect threatened and endangered species throughout the project's construction.
Overall the construction has gone fairly smoothly and the experiences during the archaeological findings have been incredibly valuable to UDOT as a whole. Dana Meier, project manager for UDOT, said, "We are an organization that learns," which is what UDOT will continue to do throughout this project.
The project has received considerable public support because it allows for the future growth and expansion of St. George and its surrounding areas. Construction continues this spring and summer to extend the new highway another eight miles.
Embraer and SkyWest sign contract for 40 E-Jets
SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil—Embraer and SkyWest Inc. recently announced a firm order for 40 EMBRAER 175 aircraft.
SkyWest, based in Utah, will operate the aircraft under a Capacity Purchase Agreement (CPA) with United Airlines. Another 60 firm orders are reconfirmable aircraft, which are subject to SkyWest being awarded CPA agreement contracts with major U.S. airline partners. In addition, the agreement includes options for another 100 E175s, taking the total order potential up to 200 airplanes.
The firm orders for the first 40 aircraft will be included in Embraer's 2013 second quarter backlog. This sale is in addition to the contract signed by Embraer with United Airlines for 30 firm and 40 options for E175 jets.
If all 100 firm orders are exercised, the order has an estimated value of $4.1 billion, representing one of the most significant orders in each company's histories. SkyWest plans to configure the E175s in a dual-class 76-seat layout, with the delivery of the first aircraft scheduled for the second quarter of 2014.
"This is truly a milestone order for Embraer. As our largest Brasilia and ERJ operator, SkyWest has now selected the enhanced E-Jet for their fleet, validating their confidence in Embraer and recognizing the tremendous capabilities of the E175 as the best aircraft in its class," said Paulo Cesar Silva , President & CEO, Embraer Commercial Aviation. "I'm confident the technologically advanced E175 will become the company's flagship, bringing greater efficiency to their operations and a higher standard of comfort to their customers."
SkyWest is the largest regional airline group in the world and is the parent company of SkyWest Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines. Both airlines have long histories with Embraer and were early customers for the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia turboprop aircraft. Over 40 EMB 120 Brasilias continue to fly in the SkyWest Airlines network, primarily in the western United States. ExpressJet Airlines operates 249 aircraft of the ERJ 145 family and is the largest ERJ operator in the world.
Jerry Atkin , chairman and CEO of SkyWest, said, "We have enjoyed our partnership with Embraer since the 1980s, and now it is extremely rewarding to be placing this significant order for E175s. We are confident the E-Jet will serve our partners and passengers well, with greater cabin comfort and with the best economics in its class."
FHWA deploys robot to collect bridge information
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration is deploying an innovative new robot to help inspect the safety and structural integrity of concrete bridge decks that can save time and money.
The new robotic tool-automated and created in partnership with Rutgers University—is combining a number of advanced, customized imaging technologies that gives inspectors more accurate information, in real time, on the deck's overall health.
"In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a 'Fix it First' approach to infrastructure targeting the nation's most urgent repairs," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "By using innovative technology, we can better identify needed bridge repairs, which is all part of the president's vision for improved transportation infrastructure."
In a single sweep, the robot combines numerous scans requiring different sets of tools. The robot's imaging technologies, similar to x-ray technologies, allow inspectors to see beyond what can be seen by the human eye without having to penetrate or damage the deck. The robot allows inspectors to see the interior of the bridge deck and obtain more detailed information on the condition of the concrete and reinforcing steel.
"This technology is helping bridge owners make smarter investment decisions," said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. "It's about providing real-world solutions through innovation."
In the first deployment wave, FHWA is using the tool on 24 bridges in six Mid-Atlantic states—Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - and in Washington, D.C. Over the next five years, the goal is to use the robot on up to 1,000 bridges nationwide.
The tool is a product of the Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) Program—a flagship FHWA research initiative to collect and analyze data on a representative sample of bridges around the country to understand how they react under certain conditions. FHWA will use the data to develop a better understanding of concrete bridge deck deterioration, including the impacts of corrosion, the environment, traffic patterns and weight.
FHWA has partnered with the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation to conduct this research.
The robot continues to complement conventional visual inspections in analyzing bridge decks—which typically deteriorate faster than other bridge components because of traffic loads and environmental exposure.
Updated: May 22, 2013
"The power of this technology is already saving lives... There is much to be excited about as these technologies further develop. They show the potential to decrease the number of tragedies on our roads in the coming decades. But there are risks... Automakers seem to be engaged in a race of sorts to see who can add more entertainment and communications devices and feathers onto the car's dashboard—all in the name of allowing drivers to remain 'connected.' I am not convinced many of these devices are necessary, and I fear they serve only to further distract drivers." —Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
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