NTSB: We’re still waiting for tech that can prevent car crashes

NTSB: We’re still waiting for tech that can prevent car crashes

A quarter-century has passed since the National Transportation Safety Board first recommended that collision-avoidance technology be required on all vehicles.

The federal agency hasn’t given up hope that someday becomes a reality.

NTSB members unveiled their annual “Most Wanted” list of transportation-related safety improvements Monday, and collision-avoidance tech once again made the Top 10 list, which included measures to address speeding, drunken driving and better protection of vulnerable road users.

At a time when federal regulators estimate traffic fatalities have risen 4.9 percent year over year, the NTSB believes those are key topics that must be addressed. Collision-avoidance systems could offer substantial improvements in safety. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found collision-avoidance tech can prevent half of rear-end crashes.

Yet vehicles on the road today are often “not equipped, nor required to be equipped, with such lifesaving technology,” the agency said in a written statement. “And consumers are often unaware of the availability and capabilities of these technologies.”

The NTSB cited a high-profile fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X in Mountain View, Calif., as one case in which an effective collision-avoidance system may have saved the life of the driver. Walter Huang died in 2018 when his vehicle struck a damaged crash attenuator.

Inroads have been made. At least 10 automakers are on or ahead of pace to make automated emergency braking a standard feature on all new vehicles by September 2022, according to a December 2020 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But others — including General Motors and Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — lag on that voluntary time frame.

Which is what perhaps makes a requirement important. The NTSB has no regulatory authority but recommends that NHTSA establish performance standards and evaluations, which could be incorporated into the vehicle safety ratings designed to educate consumers, and that automakers offer collision avoidance as standard equipment.

After 25 years, such basic steps seem long overdue.

— Pete Bigelow

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