U.S. Transportation Secretary: Automatic-Braking Safety Tech ‘Recommended’

January 22, 2015

Safety technology—including airbags, seatbelts, crash structures, and much more—has saved an estimated 613,501 lives since 1960, according to a newly released report on a statistical model from the federal government.

On the heels of that report comes an announcement from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today, underscoring the importance of progress in safety-technology features. Foxx revealed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to add both crash-imminent braking and dynamic brake support to its list of ‘recommended’ advanced safety features.

Both are part of what the federal agency terms automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems—systems that can intervene and automatically apply the brakes or add to braking effort in order to anticipate an imminent collision and either lessen its severity or avoid it entirely.

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Quite the safety potential with other active features

In a release accompanying Foxx's announcement, which was made at the Washington Auto Show today, the agency notes that these systems show promise to save even more lives and prevent more crashes when combined with V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communications and other automated vehicle technologies.

Those safety features would then be included in the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP)—the requirements through which vehicles are crash-tested and rated. The agency notes that this is the first step in a broad revision of NCAP ratings that will place more emphasis on advanced tech.

With the move, the federal government joins the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in recognizing the important of crash avoidance and mitigation. The IIHS has already used the technology to help differentiate between some of its exemplary vehicles (Top Safety Pick+) from those that earn top crash-test ratings (Top Safety Pick); so far the federal government hasn’t established a way to pick out the top-achieving models, but don’t be surprised if that’s in the works.

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A new top-tier federal rating for vehicles? Not quite yet

The announcement follows a rather lengthy wait after the federal agency requested public comment in 2013. During the comment period, the agency received numerous comments on the benefits of active-safety systems, and it notes that in the future it will seek more comments on additional program changes.

Honda Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system demo - Japan, 11/2012

Honda Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system demo - Japan, 11/2012

About 330,000 of those lives saved through safety-technology developments were through applications of seatbelt systems, while frontal airbags alone have saved nearly 43,000 lives and electronic stability control has saved almost 6,300 lives. The addition of effective automatic braking systems as a common new-vehicle feature could potentially save thousands of lives annually.

Secretary Foxx was already in headlines earlier this week because he was chosen to be the 'designated survivor'—assigned to watch the speech from a secure and undisclosed location—for the 2015 State of the Union address, delivered by President Obama.

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