WASHINGTON — NHTSA on Thursday released a long-awaited proposal to update its new-vehicle evaluation program.
The agency's proposed updates to its New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP, include adding four more advanced driver-assistance technologies to its recommendations and improving test procedures and performance criteria for driver-assist technologies already included in the program.
In addition, NHTSA's proposal calls for establishing a 10-year road map for future program updates and seeks comment on ways to develop a "meaningful" ratings system for driver-assist technologies.
The proposal also considers the potential addition of emerging vehicle technologies related to driver distraction, alcohol detection and driver monitoring, the agency said.
"The proposed improvements will not only make the program more useful and informative but also keep up with the pace of innovation in vehicle safety," Steven Cliff, NHTSA's deputy administrator, said in a statement.
"For the first time ever, NCAP includes technology recommendations not only for drivers and passengers but for road users outside the vehicle, like pedestrians," Cliff continued. "The proposal also seeks comment and a novel approach to tie technological change to reducing driver behaviors that contribute to many crashes, injuries and fatalities."
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.
The bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress last year required the department to publish a notice on proposed updates to the program, among other actions.
Consumer advocacy groups such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have long called for a comprehensive refresh to the New Car Assessment Program.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation last year urged NHTSA to update the program by including new and advanced safety features and technologies.
"All one has to do is compare U.S. NCAP to other NCAPs around the world to understand the differences and the opportunities for improvement," Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, said in a statement. "While the DOT has signaled its intent to change the program for the better, the agency needs to be cutting edge."