One study by Impact Research found that more than 70,000 people are involved in crashes involving stationary and disabled vehicles each year in the U.S., including 566 fatalities. The study said fatalities can be avoided with enhanced lighting features on vehicles when they are pulled over or disabled.
ESS is moving ahead with R&D and regulatory steps for its Hazard Enhanced Lighting Package, or H.E.L.P.
Stephen Powers, COO and co- founder of ESS, said the proposed system features a flash pattern that is cost effective, easy to implement and doesn't significantly alter the architecture of the vehicle.
"It's all based on eliciting the best response," he said.
Hazard light technology has not been updated since its inception in 1951, Powers said.
Today's LEDs allow brighter and faster flashes — making the emergency state of a vehicle more prominent.
ESS says its system is more eye- catching with five flashes per second, while a digital alert is sent to nearby drivers to warn of the disabled vehicle ahead.
Powers said NHTSA is reviewing the request and that ESS believes there is full policy alignment and compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108, which pertains to lamps and reflective devices. He said the lights could be implemented as soon as next year or as late as three years from now.
Six automakers have expressed interest in the package, he said. As is typical with emerging automotive technologies, the supplier declined to identify the automakers.
ESS, in a submission to NHTSA, described the system this way:
- It does not impair the effectiveness of required vehicle lighting.
- It activates automatically after a significant crash.
- The hazard lamps function at higher intensity to most effectively convey the presence of a hazardous or emergency situation.
Smith's story wasn't the only inspiration for bringing the product to market.
In 2014, ESS co-founder and CEO David Tucker was almost hit by a car while he was changing a tire on the side of the road.
Tucker is the former president of Canyon Offshore Inc., an energy industry contractor, and has more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur.