NHTSA to add automatic braking to star ratings
WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- U.S. regulators will add automatic braking to a list of technologies considered in its influential star-rating advisory system for consumers.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the change today during a meeting in Washington with automotive engineers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration currently rates cars based on the results of frontal and side crash tests as well as rollover propensity on a scale of one to five stars, with five being the highest score.
Automatic braking technologies will not affect a vehicle’s star rating. Rather, the systems will be added to the agency’s list of recommended safety technologies, which currently includes back-up cameras and lane-departure and impending-collision warning systems.
The auto-safety regulator has been conducting research on systems that dynamically engage brakes without driver input to avoid impending crashes for the last several years. In 2012, the agency asked for public comments on the technology and sought input on ways to test their effectiveness.
“Today marks an enormous leap in the evolution of auto safety by encouraging adoption of new technologies to keep drivers and their passengers safe on our roads,” Foxx said in a statement. “I want this department, the entire automotive industry, and other innovators to keep raising the bar on safety like we are doing now.”
The New Car Assessment Program is used by the agency to publish results of crash tests and push technologies it believes will reduce injuries and fatalities on U.S. roads.
NHTSA’s new administrator, Mark Rosekind, has emphasized that he’ll be seeking to foster innovation in the years he’ll be leading the agency. In his first few weeks on the job, Rosekind has also emphasized the need for automakers to be proactive about rooting out potential safety defects.
“We’d rather have people being preemptive rather than waiting too long and making a mistake,” Rosekind said. “You cannot save those lives after they’re gone.”
Automakers recalled more than 60 million U.S. cars and trucks last year, more than double the previous record set in 2004, and NHTSA levied more than $126 million in fines. The industry will be even under more scrutiny this year than in 2014, Rosekind said.
Rosekind toured the Detroit auto show, seeing demonstrations of vehicles from six companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors, said Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for the agency. Rosekind later had a roundtable discussion with executives from about 20 automakers.
Rosekind said his message was he wanted to work with the companies to develop strong safety cultures. NHTSA should help them to foster innovation, Rosekind said, and he wanted to learn from them what the “safety future should be.”
Rosekind said automakers and regulators must figure out ways to get more consumers to go to dealers for the needed safety repairs.
“The target has to be 100 percent,” Rosekind said.
NHTSA’s primary goal is to reduce highway fatalities, and every car company has the same priority, said John Bozzella, CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, which represents the U.S. units of about 12 carmakers including Toyota and Honda Motor Co.
“That’s a shared mission of the industry and the agency,” Bozzella said. “We’ve made progress, and we need to continue that progress.”
Ryan Beene of Automotive News contributed to this report.
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