NHTSA proposes rules changes to enable vehicle mobility for physically disabled persons

New proposed rules would make renting a vehicle a viable proposition for disabled Americans.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a rule that would enable more mobility options for people with physical disabilities. The notice of proposed rule making reads that it would allow two new modifications to rental cars for adaptive equipment.

"This rule will make it easier for individuals with disabilities to achieve greater mobility and freedom in their lives," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The first of the proposed changes would allow rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver's knee bolster air bag to install hand controls. These types of controls allow people with disabilities such as lower extremity paralysis to perform all the functions of driving a vehicle using just their hands.

If hand controls are installed and the airbag is not disabled, according to the NHTSA, the resulting force of the airbag's deployment "could cause the hand controls to strike the driver with extreme forces and create a serious risk to the safety of the driver".

Another proposed change would allow for the installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and power scooters. This type of adaption could block the rearview camera's sight lines - cameras are now required in every new vehicle - but would improve mobility for drivers and passengers with disabilities.

"Safe and accessible transportation is vital for people with disabilities. This rule will enable them to rent a wider range of cars and make it easier to transport their wheelchairs and scooters, which will improve their quality of life," NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said.

Current federal law prohibits a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, rental company, or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly making inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. These rules changes, if approved by the NHTSA, would allow a two specific exemptions in an effort to balance mobility and safety in rental car situations.

The public will have 30 days to comment before the process moves forward.

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2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport are all part of the new Bronco family.
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As customers eagerly await their turn to get their keys for the 2021 Ford Bronco, there's some exciting news coming out of Dearborn. The engines in the off-road-ready SUV are more powerful than Ford initially said they were. It's not just a small increase.

As first shown on Bronco6G Forum, a fresh spec sheet from the Blue Oval indicates that both of the Bronco's engines, available in two- and four-door models, shows upgraded horsepower and torque figures.

When it debuted, the Broncos were listed with two engine options: a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. The four-cylinder was initially rated to get 27 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The new sheet shows the Bronco equipped with that engine getting 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Ford Bronco Two-Door First 2021 Ford Bronco deliveries delayed until late summer.

2022 Ford Bronco Two-Door

Last summer Ford said that the V6 was capable of getting 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Now, those numbers have increased to 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque.

There is a big caveat with the figures. Those numbers were achieved using premium fuel. Those filling their Bronco with regular fuel are likely to get less performance.

Fuel economy figures have not been released by Ford nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The reservation process for the 2021 Ford Bronco began upon the vehicle's debut. Reservations were then turned into official orders. Currently, Ford is working to build new Broncos based on those orders but are having that process help up by the semiconductor chip shortage. The same shortage is effecting Ford F-150 production.

While Broncos are being held up, plans for standalone Bronco showrooms are not. Build-out on those displays and individual buildings is currently underway across the country as part of fresh Bronco branding strategy.

Additionally, plans for Bronco Off-Roadeo events are continuing to evolve as Ford prepares for those events to begin this summer.

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The Ford Mustang Mach-E did not perform as well as the Volvo XC40 Recharge in IIHS testing.

Photo courtesy of IIHS

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has released the results of its latest round of crash testing, which includes two new-to-market electric vehicles (EVs), the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge and 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. The Volvo earned a Top Safety Pick+ designation while the Ford got a Top Safety Pick award.

The 2021 XC40 Recharge joins the Audi E-Tron, Audi E-Tron Sportback, and Tesla Model 3, all EVs, that have received 2021 Top Safety Pick+ designation.

"It's fantastic to see more proof that these vehicles are as safe as or safer than gasoline- and diesel-powered cars," says IIHS President David Harkey. "We can now say with confidence that making the U.S. fleet more environmentally friendly doesn't require any compromises in terms of safety."

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge IIHS crash test

Photo courtesy of IIHS

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In order to earn a 2021 Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must get all Good ratings in each of the six IIHS crashworthiness tests — driver- and passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. Winners must also be available with Good or Acceptable headlights and a front crash prevention system that earns Advanced or Superior ratings in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.

To qualify as a Top Safety Pick+ award winner, vehicles must come with Good or Acceptable headlights across all trim levels and packages in addition to the Top Safety Pick criteria.

The XC40 Recharge's adaptive LED reflector headlights, which are installed on every XC40 Recharge model. The SUV's standard front crash prevention system also earns Superior and Advanced scores in the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to- pedestrian evaluations, respectively.

Ford sells the Mustang Mach-E with Good-rated LED projector headlights on Premium, GT, and First Edition trim levels. However, LED reflector headlights that are on the Mustang Mach-E Select and California Route 1 grades are rated as Marginal, which prevented the Mustang from earning the top-tier rating. IIHS found that these headlights provided inadequate illumination around curves.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E IIHS crash test

Photo courtesy of IIHS

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The Mach-E's standard front crash prevention system earned Superior ratings in both the vehicle- to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.

A recent study of electric and internal combustion engine vehicles from 2011 to 2019 by the IIHS-affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that rates of injury claims related to the drivers and passengers of electric vehicles were more than 40 percent lower than for identical conventional models over 2011-19.

HLDI points to the weight of EVs as being one of the key drivers of this statistic. Large batteries that are required to run EVs are substantially heavier than traditional powertrain components. Occupants of heavier vehicles are exposed to lower forces in multi-vehicle crashes.

The XC40 Recharge has a curb weight of 4,787 pounds, compared with 3,811 pounds for the conventional model. The Mustang Mach-E weighs 4,516 pounds.

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