Fed Wants Automakers to Fast Track Safety Tech

After a brief surge last year, fed­er­al data show that high­way deaths are again on a sharp decline, cer­tain­ly due in part to improved vehi­cle design and advanced safe­ty hard­ware.

Find out more about what the NHTSA would like automak­ers to achieve.

After a brief surge last year, fed­er­al data show that high­way deaths are again on a sharp decline, falling an esti­mat­ed 4.2% dur­ing the first half of this year. And while an ongo­ing crack­down on drunk dri­ving is one fac­tor for the 40% decline in fatal­i­ties over the last four decades, improved vehi­cle design and advanced safe­ty hard­ware also are get­ting much of the cred­it.

That’s led the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion to encour­age the indus­try to fast-track new tech­ni­cal advances that many experts now believe could even­tu­al­ly lead to an era of zero fatal­i­ties.

“Safe­ty is our top pri­or­i­ty and we can achieve remark­able progress in reduc­ing injuries and fatal­i­ties in this era of inno­va­tion and tech­nol­o­gy,” pro­claimed Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Antho­ny Foxx, who is ask­ing for “real solu­tions that can sig­nif­i­cant­ly address safe­ty issues that have plagued this nation for decades,” as part of NHTSA’s new “Sig­nif­i­cant and Seam­less” ini­tia­tive.

NHTSA first began call­ing for safe­ty tech­nol­o­gy near­ly a half-cen­tu­ry ago, ini­tial­ly with basic sys­tems such as seat­belts and new vehi­cle designs meant to bet­ter absorb impact forces dur­ing a crash. But with the man­date for airbags in the late 1980s, the push for smarter tech­nolo­gies ramped up. Today, automak­ers are required to not only use so-called pas­sive safe­ty sys­tems – which reduce the risk of injury in a crash – but to build in active safe­ty tech­nolo­gies meant to pre­vent a crash in the first place, such as elec­tron­ic sta­bil­i­ty con­trol.

The government’s top auto­mo­tive safe­ty agency could take things sev­er­al steps fur­ther. A year ago, the Nation­al Trans­porta­tion Safe­ty Board called for new rules requir­ing even more advanced col­li­sion-avoid­ance tech­nolo­gies, such as blind spot warn­ing sys­tems and for­ward-look­ing radar, on every car.

That has been backed by the trade group, the IIHS, which recent­ly issued its first study rank­ing the var­i­ous for­ward col­li­sion-avoid­ance sys­tems, some of which can bring a vehi­cle to a com­plete halt if a vehi­cle, pedes­tri­an, even a large ani­mal, pos­es the risk of a crash.

The “Sig­nif­i­cant and Seam­less”  ini­tia­tive “chal­lenges both the auto­mo­tive indus­try and the agency to deter­mine the extent of, and ulti­mate­ly uti­lize, the sig­nif­i­cant safe­ty poten­tial in these areas,” said NHTSA.




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