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NHTSA to Decide in 2013 on Crash-Avoidance System Mandate

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NHTSA logoThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will decide next year whether to mandate electronic crash-avoidance systems in all new cars, administrator David Strickland said recently. He made his announcement at the Automotive Megatrends USA 2012 conference in Dearborn, Michigan, last week.

“It’s time to go fishing. We’re done cutting bait,” he said. According to Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press business writer, Stickland said the agency has been working on this idea for more than a decade, and is awaiting results of pilot studies in order to decide whether the government should require communication technology in cars.

Priddle writes:

The safety administrator said connected-vehicle technology is NHTSA’s next major step to reduce traffic fatalities. In 2010, there were 33,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S., a 25% reduction since 2006.

Connected vehicle technology has the potential to avoid up to 80% of crash scenarios, Strickland said.

But he did not address the cost of developing and paying for infrastructure such as sensors that would need to be at intersections, on traffic signs or embedded in roads.

As Michael Wayland points out on MLive.com, cell phones, texting, and other electronics are causing drivers to become distracted and putting them at risk for car accidents. He quotes Jackson County, Michigan, Sheriff Steven Rand as saying: “The only thing I can hope is that with everything they are doing with cars, technology will pull us out.”

Regarding auto safety innovations being developed by automakers, Scott Geisler, General Motors Co.’s engineer group manager of active safety, said: “That’s going to be an interesting realm of explosive growth coming.” At the moment, Wayland reports, according to federal safety officials, each of the top three U.S. automakers — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler —  now offers at least two models with forward-collision warning systems. And there is more:

Additional features offered by Detroit’s Big Three, Toyota, and others include blind-spot monitoring, where radar sensors aid a driver changing lanes or being passed by unseen vehicles. Advanced brake systems help a driver stop more quickly using brake override technology.

However, it will take decades for electronic collision warning, lane-departure warning, and other technologies to appear in most vehicles on the road, according to Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He said collision warning is on only a few vehicles today and will only be on half the vehicles in the U.S. by year 2030:

‘A more effective immediate solution is roundabouts,’ a common feature in many European countries, Lund said. Converting 10% of intersections to roundabouts would result in 70,000 fewer crashes annually, 450 fewer fatalities and 45,000 fewer injuries.

Lund said stronger enforcement of seat belt laws, mandatory helmet use for motorcycle drivers, lower speed limits, and sobriety checkpoints are other ways to increase driving safety.

“Technology has caused a lot of the problems. We also hope it provides solutions,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Image by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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