Do Your Employees Use Cell Phones for Work While Driving?

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    Many employers have policies regarding the use of cell phones while driving, including the requirement to use the car’s hands-free, Bluetooth phone system, and abide by all applicable laws. But what happens when an employee still abides by the employer’s policy, is involved in a car accident, and causes injuries to a third party? Can the employer be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior?

    Well, it depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. By way of background, respondeat superior means that an employer is vicariously liable for the torts of its employees when these employees commit the wrongful acts within the scope of their employment. California courts have held that the determination of whether an employee has acted within the scope of employment is a question of fact, but it also can be a question of law in circumstances where the facts cannot be disputed and there can be no conflicting inferences possible.

    The California Court of Appeal in Ayon v. Esquire Deposition Solutions (decided on Sept. 21, 2018) was faced with this issue and held that under the facts presented the employer was not liable for the actions of its employee because there was no evidence that the employee in question was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident.

    In Ayon, the plaintiff’s car was struck by Brittini Zuppardo (“Zuppardo”), the scheduling manager of defendant Esquire Deposition Solutions (“Esquire”) while Zuppardo was driving. At the time of the accident, Zuppardo was on the phone with one of Esquire’s court reporters using her car’s hands-free Bluetooth phone system. This phone call (and hence the accident) occurred after normal business hours.

    The plaintiff filed suit against Esquire and Zuppardo for personal injuries.  Esquire filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff could not establish Esquire was vicariously liable for any damages its employee caused. The trial court agreed with Esquire, and the plaintiff appealed.

    On appeal, the Court found that, based on the evidence presented, Zuppardo was not acting within the course and scope of her employment, particularly since (a) the phone call in question was after-hours, (b) Zuppardo was not on a work errand, but rather was coming home from a social engagement, and (c) although the phone call was with one of Esquire’s court reporters, Zuppardo and the court reporter were also friends and the conversation was not about work matters, but rather personal in nature. In sum, the trial court concluded that there was no evidence that Zuppardo talked about work matters at the time of the accident.

    In Ayon, the Court found convincing the testimony of the Esquire employees who denied that they were discussing anything concerning work. And, their testimony was supported by undisputed evidence that (a) Zuppardo only made after-hours work calls on rare occasions, (b) it was not within her usual job duties, and (c) the two were friends. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s findings in favor of Esquire.

    While it is unclear from Ayon whether the employee’s use of her cell phone (albeit hands-free) was a contributing factor to the accident, the employer was successful in avoiding liability in this case. Nevertheless, the outcome of this case may have been different if the employee was not using a hands-free device at the time of the accident. As such, enforcing policies can reduce the risk of claims.

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    NASA news: Space agency awards contract to test flying drones on Venus

    The US space agency challenged Colorado-based Black Swift Technologies (BST) to construct flying drones capable of withstanding Venus’s harsh atmosphere. The company from Boulder, Colorado, specialises in the development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) but NASA’s incredible task could be the hardest yet. NASA's contract with BST calls for a number of remote aerial drones to soar in parts Venus’ atmosphere which are not too dissimilar to conditions back home. The proposed drone design envisions a “dynamic soaring” machine similar to many gliding aircraft on Earth.

    Jack Elston, company CEO, said: “While there have been a variety of systems proposed for upper atmospheric observation of Venus, the planet’s high wind speeds pose a significant design challenge. “Our solution will be designed to not only survive in the harsh wind environment, but also simultaneously perform targeted sampling of the atmosphere while continuously extracting energy, even on the darks side of the planet.” The surface of Venus is an incredibly inhospitable landscape due to the planet’s close proximity to the sun. Average surface temperatures peak around 467C, making Venus the hottest planet in the solar system. But between 31 miles (50km) to 40 miles (65km) above the surface the atmospheric conditions are fairly reminiscent of the skies above Earth. The temperatures and pressures on both planets are comparable which makes Venus a prime candidate for space exploration. But the planet’s atmosphere also suffers from an effect known as super-rotation which whips up winds speeds up to 220mph (360km/h). The super-rotation causes Venus’ atmosphere to circle the entire planet in just four Earth days.

    Mr Elston said: “Black Swift Technologies has provided aerial solutions for wildland fires, volcanic observations, tornadoes, and hurricanes – some of the most extreme phenomena on Earth. “This mission is a natural extension of our focus, only now we are concentrating on the extreme conditions of Venus.” But this is not NASA’s first trip towards the scorching hot planet. Since the 1960s at least 40 Venus-bound space missions have been attempted by NASA, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA).

    On December 14, 1962, NASA carried out its first successful flyby of Venus with the Mariner 2 space probe. The Mariner 5 probe achieved the same result in 1967 and the Mariner 10 approached the planet in 1974. Since then, the Pioneer Venus 2 landed on the planet’s surface and beamed collected data back to Earth for over an hour in 1978. NASA’s last mission to Mars was the August 3, 2004, gravity assisted flyby of MESSENGER en route to Mercury.

    Read the original article here.


    A Family in France Becomes the World’s First to Live in a 3D Printed House

    The 1022 square feet house took a little more than 2 days to print, and has sparked interest in the construction community.

    The Ramdanis have become the first family in the world to live in a 3D-printed house. This family recently moved into a 3D-printed house in France and the news has created a lot of excitement throughout the world.

    The house is a four-bedroom property which serves as the perfect model for future projects. The aim is to make the entire concept of housebuilding significantly faster and cheaper.
    Could this impact the construction of future 3D-printed homes? Only future will tell! This new prototype of a 3D printed home is an architect’s dream come true. The highlights of this house are digital controls for the convenience of disabled individuals and the curved-wall designs that substantially alleviate the effects of humidity on the house.

    The following numbers are going to leave you staggered. The house took a little more than 2 days to print, in addition to another four months to add roof, windows, and doors to the house.
    The construction of the entire house cost around £176,000. This means that the cost of construction done by 3D printing is 20% cheaper than using conventional construction techniques.

    In addition to that, the entire process is much quicker than if you were to use traditional building solutions. The 3D printing team believes that they just might be able to achieve the feat of reprinting the same house in a day and a half.

    This house was made as a result of the collaboration between the University of Nantes, the city council, and a housing association. The 1022 square feet house can comfortably house a family of five.
    The council’s lead innovator, Francky Trichet commented that the primary goal of this 3D printing project was to ascertain if this kind of construction solution could become mainstream and be applied to different types of communal buildings. He now believes that this concept could potentially impact the construction industry.

    He says, “For 2,000 years there hasn't been a change in the paradigm of the construction process. We wanted to sweep this whole construction process away. That's why I'm saying that we're at the start of a story. We've just written, 'Once upon a time.'”

    The house is now being inhabited by Nordine Ramdani, Nouria Ramdani, and their three children. Nordine comments on the project saying, "It's a big honor to be a part of this project. We lived in a block of council flats from the 60s, so it's a big change for us. It's really something amazing to be able to live in a place where there is a garden, and to have a detached house.” The house is initially designed by a team of expert scientists and architects, after which the 3D printer does its job. It prints the layers of the walls from the floor and up. Then the builders fit in the windows, doors, and roofs and voila! You have yourself a 3D-printed home!

    Not just this, but the house is extremely eco-friendly with digital controls for the differently-abled. Rest assured, this brainchild of Benoit Furet from the University of Nantes is a significant leap in the arena of 3D printing solutions.

    Click here to view the original article.


    Automotive Additive Manufacturing Market to Reach $5.3 Billion by 2023

    Industry analyst firm SmarTech Publishing has issued a new report entitled “Additive Manufacturing in Automotive 2018” that examines the current market for automotive additive manufacturing, including prototyping and tooling applications, but focusing specifically on production of final parts.
    In the new report, SmarTech expects the overall automotive additive manufacturing market to reach $5.3 billion USD in revenues in 2023 and grow to $12.4 billion US by 2028.
    According to the report, the adoption of AM by the automotive segment for production purposes is going to mark an inflection point for additive manufacturing.
    While the market remains focused on prototyping and tooling, parts production will become the primary revenue opportunity by the end of the forecast period, surpassing prototyping, tooling, hardware and materials.
    Parts production including metal and polymer parts produced both internally by automotive OEM’s and in outsourcing. These are expected to be the primary revenue opportunity for the automotive additive manufacturing market driving the entire segment, totaling nearly $4.3 billion by the end of the forecast period.
    The report also cites new hardware from leading 3D printing vendors and its applicability to automotive part production: multi-jet fusion (HP), digital light synthesis (Carbon) as well as metal binder jetting projects from Desktop Metal, GE Additive and Stratasys.
    According to the report, major automotive OEMs have already formed partnerships with AM hardware OEMs with an emphasis on part production, which indicates the value they see from integrating additive manufacturing into their processes.

    Moreover, new software is enabling both optimized part design for AM and AM integration into the end-to-end production workflow.
    The full report can be found here.