By Chairman Christopher A. Hart
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with 13 automakers at the Washington Auto Show in Washington, DC, to learn about some of the new safety features offered in their 2016 and subsequent models. I was impressed by their level of commitment to building safer cars.
Each automaker displayed several technologies aimed at helping drivers avoid or mitigate the impact of crashes. Some systems warned the driver of a potential frontal crash or of the possibility of hitting a pedestrian, and others not only warned of an imminent collision but also applied the brakes, assisting in both collision prevention and reducing damage and injury sustained from collisions. Several vehicles offered post-collision braking, a technology that helps to prevent a vehicle that is struck from behind from striking the vehicle in front of it or from being pushed into an intersection.
I was very interested to hear about these technologies because “Promote Availability of Collision Avoidance Technologies” is one of the 10 issues on our 2016 Most Wanted List of critical transportation safety improvements. Just as seat belts are standard equipment, not optional, we are pushing for all passenger and commercial vehicles to have – as standard equipment – collision avoidance technologies, such as lane departure warning, collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and advanced lighting.
As automakers, to their credit, are working to bring down the price of these safety features, they should also be looking to make them standard on all models. Most automakers now offer these types of technologies as optional features, but consumers shouldn’t have to ask for these safety technologies and then pay for them as part of add-on trim packages.
Other technologies showcased at the auto show addressed other safety issues that are on our 2016 Most Wanted List, such as distraction, fatigue, and occupant protection. One available fatigue-management technology can detect excessive carbon dioxide that can contribute to driver fatigue. Side air bags are being enhanced in order to push a person toward the center of the car, providing better protection from the forces of a side impact. At least one manufacturer offered a rear-seat reminder to notify a driver of something left in the back seat, such as a child in a car seat. Pedal misapplication, which has been implicated in several crashes, is also receiving increased attention with new technologies.
To significantly reduce fatalities and injuries on U.S. roads each year – most of which are the result of driver error – driver-assist technologies such as collision avoidance systems must be included now in all new vehicles, including commercial vehicles.
Without a doubt, automakers are essential partners in saving lives.