Federal accident investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board believe the government should mandate the latest collision technology, usually only found on luxury vehicles, in every new car made. This announcement came this week as the NTSB released it’s yearly 10 Most Wanted List.
What the agency is recommending is that these features become mandated as standard equipment for all new cars going forward. This is a tough pill to swallow for car companies, which feel that this would drive up the cost of a new car for consumers who are already strapped with paying an average of $30,000 now.
But the agency is taking a hard stand on the issue, saying that their research shows that employing these technologies on every car could reduce traffic fatalities by more than half.
“Transportation is safer than ever, but with 35,000 annual fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries, we can, and must, do better,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “The Most Wanted List is a roadmap to improving safety for all of our nation’s travelers.”
The five technologies rely on electronic sensors and computers to communicate dangerous situations to the driver and, in many cases, change the behavior of the car itself.
Lane departure warning
Since 2001, car companies have been creating different versions of lane departure warnings that beep, ring, and sometimes take the wheel from the driver when conditions aren’t safe to proceed into another lane — or the side of the road. Various technologies like video, laser, and infrared sensors deliver the information to the driver. Although this technology is becoming more common on lower-priced vehicles, experts say the cost of adding it can be anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per car.
Forward collision warning
Using the same technologies as the lane departure warning devices, the sensor built into collision avoidance systems warns the driver of obstacles in the road, a car in front of them, or a blind spot detected in the next lane. These systems are very helpful in the fog or when a car in front of you makes a sudden stop. Although mostly found in high-end cars, the 2013 Nissan Altima can be fitted with this feature for around $1,000 extra.
Adaptive cruise control
Sure, lots of cars have cruise control, but adaptive cruise control suggests the car has the ability to slow down automatically when approaching a vehicle ahead. Some even have the ability to speed up when traffic allows. Again, lasers, radar, and video technologies are used to provide information to the driver in either an audible or vibrating feel on the wheel. Some of these systems give a warning beep when the car drifts out of its lane without the blinker engaged.
Also called “pre-collision systems,” automatic breaking is a technology that senses an imminent collision with another vehicle, person, or obstacle and applies the brakes without driver input. Laser, radar, and cameras are used to make this happen and, although not all accidents can be completely avoided, the system does seek to reduce crash speed in many situations.
Electronic stability control
A much more common and less expensive safety feature being recommended by the NTSB has many branded names, but is known as electronic stability control. This technology detects and reduces loss of traction or skidding when it detects a loss of steering control. When engaged, it automatically applies the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle where the driver intends to go. This might happen while the car is skidding, during emergency evasive swerves, or when the driver poorly judges turns on slippery roads. It’s also helpful when the car is hydroplaning due to severe weather.
Compelling stats behind the recommendations
The potential for improving safety by using these technologies is impressive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that run-off-road, rear-end, and lane change maneuvers account for 23%, 28%, and 9% of highway accidents, respectively. Vehicle collision avoidance technologies can prevent these types of accidents. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that forward collision warning can prevent 879 fatal crashes annually for passenger vehicles and 115 fatal crashes annually for large trucks.
The Insurance Institute estimates that lane departure warning can prevent 247 fatal crashes annually, and electronic stability control, 439 fatal crashes annually.
The NTSA’s list was released a little earlier than usual this year so corporations could get a jump on planning.
“We’re releasing the list now so it is available to policymakers at the state and federal levels as well as industry groups as they craft their priorities for 2013,” Hersman said. “We want to highlight the results of our investigations and ensure that safety has a seat at the table when decisions are made.”