The Alliance for Automotive Innovation is urging U.S. auto safety regulators to update a program used to provide safety information to vehicle purchasers by including new and advanced safety features and technologies, the auto trade group said Tuesday.
As part of its plan for modernizing NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP, the alliance has proposed five recommendations to keep the program current by evaluating and rating new and advanced safety and performance features in today's vehicles.
Specifically, the alliance recommends:
1. Regularly updating the program by identifying new safety technologies that could be included in the ratings system.
2. Engaging annually with stakeholders to provide information on R&D efforts and gain insight on future technologies and technical challenges.
3. Maintaining a consistent three-year review-and-update cycle for the program that considers other safety rating programs such as Euro NCAP and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick awards.
4. Conducting periodic reviews of the program's effectiveness.
5. Prioritizing rule-making to remove regulatory barriers related to advanced technology that could hinder innovation.
"This plan is a set of recommended actions NHTSA can take today to modernize NCAP and ensure the long-term success of the program," said John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, which represents most major automakers in the U.S. as well as some suppliers and tech companies.
"Although NCAP has inspired similar programs around the world to measure vehicle safety, it has not been updated in a decade," he added. "It's important to stay in sync with global standards and the pace of innovations in car and truck safety that benefit consumers and the traveling public."
NHTSA's program provides comparative information on the safety and performance of new vehicles to help consumers with purchasing decisions. The program also tests vehicle performance in various crash scenarios and uses a five-star rating scale.
In October 2019, NHTSA said it was "planning to propose significant updates and upgrades" to the program.
The alliance's recommendations come after NHTSA in January — just days before President Joe Biden took office — issued a request seeking public comment on proposed updates to the program that would include more testing for several driver-assist technologies.
The agency's suggested updates included the testing of four additional advanced driver-assistance systems technologies: lane-keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning and blind-spot intervention.
U.S. safety regulators also sought comment on how to develop a rating system for driver-assist technologies that are included in NHTSA's crash-avoidance program.
Biden issued a memo on his first day in office that paused midnight regulations — or late rules that the Trump administration tried to finalize in its last days — giving the new administration a chance to review them before renewing any regulatory activity, including NHTSA's request seeking input on NCAP updates.
The alliance supports adding those four technologies to the program, but also recommends taking a “broader, more strategic approach,” Bozzella said during a press call Tuesday.
“We have had opportunities to have conversations with NHTSA,” he said. “We also recognize there’s a role for Congress to play in the continued development and modernizing of NCAP, and so we look forward to partnering with automotive regulators as well as other policymakers to see this through.”
Bozzella said the group’s proposal of establishing mid- to long-range “NCAP opportunity road maps,” engaging with stakeholders annually and holding periodic reviews of the program also allows for discussions on automated vehicles and related technologies further down the road.
NHTSA said it continues to work on upgrades to the program and expects to have more information about it in the coming months.
"NCAP modernization is long overdue," the alliance said in a document outlining its recommendations. "If the U.S. is to remain a global leader in automotive safety innovation, our policies and programs must keep pace. An effective NCAP would help ensure a consistent, long-term vision and a review schedule that could enhance the program while also achieving the goal of modernization."