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March 6, 1995

4 Min Read
Washington Beat

States get larger role in technology programs
Improving engineering and science in America should be a national effort-not just a federal effort. That was the theme at a State-Federal Science and Technology Partnership symposium in Washington, DC. Co-hosting were the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government. John H. Gibbons, President Clinton's science and technology adviser, announced formation of a task force. It will advise the Administration on ways to get states more involved in drafting and carrying out a national agenda in science and technology. The State-Federal Technology Partnership, a public service group, presented a new 670-page book to Dr. Gibbons. It describes 400 state programs that could be models for promoting technology on broader scales. "It will be well-thumbed in my shop in the months ahead," Gibbons told Design News. Rep. George E. Brown, Jr., ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee, which he used to chair, summed up the mood at the symposium: "This is the course of the future. I hate to say it, but I think the age of big federal government is waning."


Grant promotes markets for low-energy products
The Department of Energy has given $800,000 to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) to promote energy-efficient appliances. Composed of utilities, state energy offices, and environmental and research groups, CEE is a nonprofit organization. It works through its Golden Carrot programs to speed products from the development lab to the marketplace. Among technologies pushed in current programs are super-efficient refrigerators, residential and commercial air conditioners, lighting, clothes washers, and ground source heat pumps. Christine Ervine, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, figures those technologies could save customers $45 million yearly in energy costs. She adds that CEE helps stimulate market acceptance of equipment boasting high efficiency-much higher than standards require.


Safety agency probes anti-lock brakes
Officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have suspended rule-making on anti-lock braking systems in cars and light trucks. They are waiting for results of fresh tests on anti-locks by their researchers. The studies should wind up before summer. Prompting the tests were data showing a significantly high number of fatal crashes in which passenger cars with anti-lock brakes ran off the road. Dr. Ricardo Martinez, head of NHTSA, says the results could involve all types of anti-locks or only some designs. Or they could stem from other causes. For example, he said, some drivers of anti-lock-equipped vehicles may habitually, but wrongly, pump the brake pedal in emergencies.


Switching systems link diverse telecom modes
New switching equipment and systems were prevalent at ComNet, the annual telecom trade show in Washington, DC. Hadax Electronics Inc., of S. Hackensack, NJ, introduced PlusNet. It is a multi-backup system that integrates a variety of transfer methods, including CSUs/DSUs, ISDN, TAs, and modems. The instant a failure occurs, PlusNet automatically re-routes the transmission to one of the backup devices, alerts the manager with an alarm, and seeks the trouble source. UB Networks, of Santa Clara, CA, introduced GeoSwitch(R) 155. It allows customers to deploy high-speed asynchronous transfer mode on existing building wiring, without upgrading. Promptus Communications Inc., of Portsmouth, RI, unveiled its new OASIS 2000 Multimedia Server. The device provides integrated access to both leased-line and switched digital services for a variety of applications.


Groups urge changes in auto crash tests
Should the government's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) be reassessed? Yes, according to most participants at a NHTSA meeting of safety and consumer groups. A widely expressed opinion at the session is that auto manufacturers take extra pain to design vehicles that will score well on the agency's crash tests. "NCAP has become a de facto manufacturer test requirement," claims Adrian Lund, senior vice president of the Institute for Highway Safety. The problem, he says, is that the tests are limited to a 35-mph frontal crash into a fixed barrier. NCAP ratings do not reveal vulnerability to other types of crashes. Some participants also urged the government to draft a new set of injury criteria. Use of air bags has markedly reduced serious impacts on instrumented dummies. Changes to NCAP are not likely to come this year. The Administration's budget for fiscal '95 sliced funding for the program to $1.7 million-$120,000 less than last year. What's more, for the past two years Congress has fixed funds to NHTSA for setting up side-impact crash tests. The present Congress is unlikely to be any more favorable toward that proposal.

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