NHTSA may add 'small overlap,' angled crash tests
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration soon may revise its five-star crash safety program with new tests for cars and trucks, Administrator David Strickland tells Automotive News.
The centerpiece of the current procedure is the frontal crash test, which determines how well vehicle passengers would fare in a head-on collision.
Strickland said NHTSA researchers are studying "small overlap" crashes, in which a corner of the front bumper strikes an object; and oblique crashes, in which the vehicle collides with an object at an angle. Adding tests would make it tougher for automakers to earn a five-star rating.
NHTSA will reach a point within "a couple years' time frame at the maximum" where it will decide whether to move forward with new tests, Strickland said in an interview last week at the Detroit auto show.
Strickland spoke with Staff Reporter Gabe Nelson.
Q: How well is the auto industry tackling distracted driving?
A: Manufacturers are working very hard on addressing distraction in a very holistic way. They're not only talking about whether you are using a device or not, but all the distractions in the vehicle: a lot of eye-tracking, a lot of heads-up displays that keep your eyes on the road while you are still seeing information.
What do you think of General Motors' plan to block some of the functions in the Siri voice-recognition system for the Chevrolet Sonic and Spark?
GM's strategy with Apple and Siri -- making sure you limit some capabilities -- is actually very smart. You really want to think about what is appropriate for the driving environment. Things like navigation, restaurant suggestions -- things of that nature -- make some sense. Things like looking up "what does a hieroglyphic mean" while you're under way may not.
It has been six months since NHTSA started a yearlong test of connected cars in Ann Arbor, Mich. What have been the results so far?
We are actually getting way more data than we expected, and that's a really positive front. By the end of the pilot we have an expectation of having a lot of naturalistic data, driving data and safety data that will lead us to make our agency decision in 2013.
Do you have changes in mind for the five-star crash testing program?
We are working right now on an offset or oblique test. I know that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a "small overlap" test, which is very similar. We believe that we are going to promulgate a test which is going to replicate those small-overlap crashes in a realistic way.
When do you expect that test to be in place?
It does take some time, but we're very close on the research phase to actually get that compliance test done. ... I will say that the manufacturers right now are recognizing NHTSA's preliminary work, as well as [the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's] work, and they are already building in countermeasures to protect against those kinds of crashes.
You can reach Gabe Nelson at email@example.com.