DETROIT -- Auto dealers should have a role in educating consumers on properly using potentially life-saving vehicle technology, a National Transportation Safety Board member said.
NTSB board member Earl Weener, speaking with reporters and editors at Automotive News on Wednesday, said as features such as autonomous emergency braking and anti-collision technology become standard, it will be important for automakers and dealers to educate consumers about how to properly use them.
“It’s one thing to have the technology,” Weener said. “It’s another thing to use it properly, or to understand it well enough, understand why it might’ve given some sort of an error so that you understand why.”
Autonomous and semiautonomous safety features and other technologies have come under the spotlight as automakers and tech companies push to introduce a fully self-driving car on roadways within the next several years. Automakers and safety advocates say autonomous and semiautonomous technology could dramatically reduce fatal traffic incidents, if properly applied.
Weener said he and other NTSB officials met with the Detroit 3 automakers this week to discuss safety goals and to receive updates on technologies they are developing.
“We had some discussions about how the car dealers, the person or the organization that touches the consumer, that the person in that role has a real opportunity to make certain that the consumer understands the capability of what they bought,” he said.
Weener said the idea to have dealers play a teacher role generated a “very positive response,” while acknowledging that the NTSB spoke with safety officials at the automakers who could be more receptive to the idea than others at the companies.
“We would expect them to be enthusiastic about these technologies because they probably have a lot to do with the current status of them,” he said. “So that doesn’t automatically make the car dealers part of the solution. It means that the car manufacturers have to do some liaison work with their dealers to get these things in place.”
Dealers can gain
He said dealers could stand to gain business from educating customers on how to properly use new technology.
“The car dealer also has an opportunity to do a little selling on the advantages to some of these technologies in the case that they’re not standard on a car or not part of the package that they’re buying,” Weener said. “To our way of thinking, it’d be an advantage for the car dealer to say, ‘Look, here’s what adaptive cruise control or autonomous emergency braking can do for you.’”
Weener said the NTSB met with the automakers in part to discuss ways to combat problems facing U.S. transportation on its “Most Wanted List.” The list, which is reviewed annually, lays out the “critical changes needed to reduce transportation accidents” in aviation, naval, rail and automotive transportation.
The 10 most important changes on the list include reducing fatigue-related accidents, removing distractions, ending substance-impaired transportation and expanding the use of recorders in vehicles to paint a “more accurate picture of an accident” to prevent future ones.