Discussion of Tesla crash at Treehugger includes underride guards

I posted to a science, technology, and environment blog called Treehugger which is asking if underride guards would have protected the Tesla in a crash.


Treehugger post:

Thanks for this article. Big media have overlooked the fact that this crash involved a big truck and trailer! We now know the Tesla was traveling at about 65 mph. The laptop and DVD player were on the seat and not mounted, there was no evidence of a DVD playing. This trucking company had safety violations and the truck driver is under investigation I assume for failure to yield “right of way”. Failure to yield left turn truck crashes are unfortunately, a common occurrence, as big trucks and trailers are hard to recognize and react to.

The visibility of the truck is a major issue which fluorescent reflective tape and large side of trailer reflectors could easily and cheaply address. Visibility of trailers without side protection by obstacle detection systems in new cars is a seriously overlooked issue. We have major media and safety advocates calling for the redesign or reprogramming of virtually all obstacle detection systems for millions of cars. We believe that trucks and trailers have a moral and legal responsibility to vehicle compatibility and when refusing to install side guards they should be legally required to install radar targets under these large trailers. Reprogramming possible flaws into the sign detection ability of obstruction detection systems seems absurd.

The trucking industry has an estimated Total revenue of 255.5 billion dollars, they sell approximately 280,000 new trailers every year. The DOT estimates there are over 500,000 truck accidents every year. We have an industry that can afford to research and purchase new safety technology. We certainly have enough accidents to warrant finally a small amount of attention to their safety flaws and issues.

In a small research project, APROSYS in the E.U. designed cheap and simple reinforced pallet boxes and attached them as side guards to trailers. They crash tested them at 40 mph or 62 km/h and they successfully protected mid-sized cars in crashes at 90 degrees. The trailer frames were undamaged, they protected cars in crashes without trailer frame reinforcement or redesign. This was not a major engineering side guard design effort and higher-speed performing side guards can be designed. We have had rear guards that perform to 50 mph since the early 1990’s.

It is clear with the Tesla’s advanced safety systems and crash protection that even these lower-speed guards would have provided survivable protection. Radar would have detected the side guard and prevented this crash and saved a life. Whatever you believe it is clear we lost a pioneer and hero in more ways than one. Joshua Brown lost his life, but others will be saved in the future due to his efforts, possibly hundreds.