Anthony Cooke, a former chief counsel for NHTSA who is now vice president of policy and regulation at lidar company Luminar, called the program a "powerful tool among NHTSA's authorities" and urged the agency to act quickly to finalize the updates.
"We're at a time of significant advancement for crash-avoidance technology, and it's also happening at a time where more customers are seeing these in cars," he told Automotive News. "They're becoming more aware of these features, and they're seeing the benefits. The agency right now is at a great place to capture real gains in highway safety through pushing the NCAP program forward."
The proposal also 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.
William Wallace, associate director of safety policy at Consumer Reports, applauded the effort and said a long-term road map can foster the implementation of better technology sooner.
"It can help us avoid ever being in a situation ever again where we go more than 10 years between major NCAP upgrades," he said. "It also can help make clear earlier which technologies are likely to be part of NCAP in the future and, ultimately, part of mandatory standards."
For crash-avoidance technologies such as AEB, Cooke said NCAP can encourage greater safety advances through more challenging testing as well as improve their performance and lifesaving potential.
"Just like airbags and how they've developed over generations, the same thing is happening with crash-avoidance technologies," he said. "If we're going to take advantage of the opportunity that is NCAP — to be able to drive these safety features through market forces and competition — then it needs to also be capturing that ongoing dynamic process."