NTSB urges U.S. to mandate advanced braking
Washington — The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday urged auto safety regulators and automakers to do more to spur the introduction of forward collision-avoidance systems to keep cars from running into those in front of them.
Since 2012, the NTSB has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to mandate new safety technologies in all vehicles, which could dramatically reduce the number fatalities caused by driver distractions. But the auto safety agency hasn’t agreed to do so.
“You don’t pay extra for your seat belt,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said on Monday. “And you shouldn’t have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether.” He called the board’s report released Monday a “wake-up” and urged automakers and NHTSA to work together to speed adoption.
Hart noted that just four out of 684 passenger vehicle models in 2014 included a complete forward collision-avoidance system as a standard feature. It is primarily on more expensive vehicles.
The sensor-based technology can detect a forward crash with another vehicle or pedestrian before it occurs, by alerting the driver to take corrective action or automatically applying brakes.
The NTSB first started calling for the development of vehicle technologies to help avoid crashes in the mid-1990s.
In January, NHTSA said it would add two automatic emergency braking systems to recommended safety features as part of its five-star New Car Assessment Program: crash-imminent braking which automatically applies brakes as necessary; and dynamic brake support, which increases braking to its maximum in an emergency. But it declined to propose mandating the technology.
NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said the agency welcomes the safety board’s input. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind is a former NTSB board member.
The NTSB on Monday recommended automakers make collision-avoidance systems standard equipment in new vehicles, beginning with collision warning systems, and adding automatic emergency braking once NHTSA sets performance standards for those braking systems.
It wants NHTSA to develop tests and standards to rate the performance of each vehicle’s collision avoidance systems and to use the results as part of a revamped 5-star safety program.
Automakers have in recent years opposed new mandates, and say they could add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new car or truck. But in the European Union, automakers must now add the systems to get the highest rating in government crash tests.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — the trade group representing Detroit automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and others — said consumers, not the government, should decide whether to purchase advanced safety systems.
“Consumers want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding on how they spend their safety dollars, and automakers agree. Consumers should be deciding what vehicles they drive and what technology is in those vehicles,” alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said.
In 2012, rear-end crashes killed 1,705 people and injured 547,000 in the United States. About 87 percent of those deaths and injuries might have been prevented or lessened if vehicles had a collision avoidance system, the NTSB said, because they were linked to driver inattention.