The NHTSA will introduce a stricter vehicle evaluation program.
Car safety standards have come far in the last decade, and these days even the humble Honda Civic boasts numerous standard active driver assistance systems. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), the safety rating agency that tests new cars to make sure they comply with national safety regulations, is continuously adapting to this shift in vehicle safety tech, and frequently updates its new vehicle evaluation program to incorporate these new features into its testing.
Now, the NHTSA has just announced a big update to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) which proposes more advanced driver-assistance technologies being added to its recommendation list, along with better testing procedures for features that are already part of the program. The proposal sets out a few significant long-term goals for the agency, including a rating system for driver-assistance tech, especially for emerging systems like driver attention assist, driver monitoring, and alcohol detection.
"The proposed improvements will not only make the program more useful and informative but also keep up with the pace of innovation in vehicle safety," said Steven Cliff, NHTSA's deputy administrator in a recent statement.
"For the first time ever, NCAP includes technology recommendations not only for drivers and passengers but for road users outside the vehicle, like pedestrians," Cliff continued. "The proposal also seeks comment and a novel approach to tie technological change to reducing driver behaviors that contribute to many crashes, injuries, and fatalities," he continues.
Consumer advocacy groups have been calling for an update on the outdated NHTSA New Car Assessment Program, but things in the world of safety regulations tend to move at a slow pace, especially thanks to the bureaucratic nightmare that is the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress last year.
The law requires the NHTSA to publish a notice on proposed updates to its programs and sounds like the most boring thing this side of medical information pamphlets. One example of how the US has lagged behind relates to advanced adaptive headlights which were only recently approved for use here.
"All one has to do is compare US NCAP to other NCAPs around the world to understand the differences and the opportunities for improvement. While the DOT has signaled its intent to change the program for the better, the agency needs to be cutting edge," says Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator.
This move is a necessary one and will shape the way advanced safety tech is developed by many major manufacturers, so extra care has to be taken when setting industry standards. Now there's just one small elephant left in the room: self-driving cars.