NHTSA Considers Changes to Five-Star Crash Rating System

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s five-star crash assessment testing could see changes that place an emphasis on electronic crash avoidance technologies, according to Wards Auto. The suggested changes would reward automakers for including technologies such as forward collision warning systems and lane departure assistance systems if new testing criteria are put in place.

Speaking to the Society of Automotive Analysts at the Detroit auto show, NHTSA administrator David Strickland said the agency is looking at new credits that would help raise consumer awareness of new automotive safety technologies, and also encourage manufacturers to include such systems on more vehicles.

“We’re now looking at what new technologies to highlight in the five-star ratings,” Strickland said to the press, promising that a decision would come “soon.”

The NHTSA’s consideration of testing changes follows its earlier move with electronic stability control, where the agency awarded automakers extra credit in NCAP impact testing for including stability control technologies. This led NHTSA to mandate the inclusion of anti-skid technology on all new models starting with model year 2012.

“Crash-worthiness has been the guiding star for NHTSA [since its inception],” Strickland said. “But if there’s an opportunity to prevent a crash—that is the goal.” According to Strickland, 80 percent of crashes can be attributed to driver error.

With that statistic in mind, Strickland points to vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications systems as a possible long-term solution, saying that the technology could eliminate 80 percent of crashes involving non-impaired drivers, and could reduce U.S. fatalities from nearly 33,000 per year “to 25,000, then 20,000.”

“V2V is a main focus of NHTSA,” Strickland said, as he discussed a three-year consumer test program in Ann Arbor, Mich. involving GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen. Strickland did not give time estimates regarding the commercialization of V2V. The official instead cited automatic crash notification, a feature that alerts emergency responders immediately following a crash, as a nearer-term solution to reducing fatalities, and said the NHTSA hopes every car in America will have that technology in the future.

Another consideration that NHTSA will be releasing framework for “real soon” centers on in-vehicle electronics intended to reduce distracted driving. As we previously reported, NHTSA will conduct a two-year study on distracted driving, involving 2000 vehicles with onboard cameras to monitor driver behavior. The NHTSA hopes that data from this study will help researchers better understand the relationship between distracted driving and crash involvement. The results from the study will be available in 2014.

Regarding the planned two-year study, Strickland says, “The goal is to make sure we have an accurate picture of what is happening in the vehicles so that we’re not creating something that is a risk for every driver.”

With these changes looming on the horizon, automakers may soon find themselves scrambling to adapt to new safety standards. If the result is reduced traffic deaths, though, the effort could be worth it.

Source: Wards Auto

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