NTSB report: Automakers lagging on life-saving collision-avoidance technology

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Lack of incentives, limited public awareness has stunted the wide adoption of collision avoidance technology

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal safety officials blasted the U.S. auto industry in a new report for failing to make progress on using life-saving collision avoidance systems in new cars.

The National Transportation Safety Board report says rear-end crashes kill about 1,700 people every year and injure half a million more. More than 80 percent of those deaths and injuries might have been mitigated had the vehicles been equipped with a collision avoidance system.

“You don’t pay extra for your seatbelt,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “And you shouldn’t have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether.”

The NTSB has made 12 recommendations over 20 years in favor of forward collision avoidance technologies, including 10 recommendations resulting from an earlier Special Investigation Report in 2001.

The progress on these recommendations, however, has been very limited. The report notes that a lack of incentives and limited public awareness has stunted the wide adoption of collision avoidance technology.

Only four out of 684 passenger vehicle models in 2014 included a complete forward collision avoidance system as a standard feature. When these systems are offered as options, they are often bundled with other non-safety features, making the overall package more expensive.

“The promise of a next generation of safety improvements has been used too often to justify inaction,” Hart said. “Because there will always be better technologies over the horizon, we must be careful to avoid letting perfection become the enemy of the good.”

In the report, the NTSB recommends that manufacturers make collision avoidance systems standard equipment in newly manufactured vehicles, beginning with collision warning systems, and adding autonomous emergency braking once NHTSA completes standards for such braking systems.

The report also recommends that NHTSA develop tests and standards in order to rate the performance of each vehicle’s collision avoidance systems.

Along with the report, the NTSB is also issued a companion Safety Alert for consumers and commercial fleet owners, urging them to consider vehicles with collision warning and autonomous emergency braking functions.

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