US is changing the car safety rating systems

If you thought the situation in the US at the moment with regards to car safety was a bit of a joke, well, you’d probably be right. In the past year alone, over 60 million cars have been recalled in the US due to various safety flaws. With that in mind, the regulatory bodies have been clearing house and updating a lot of its procedures to make sure that this doesn’t happen again and on top of that, it’s looking to overhaul the entire five star safety rating system.

In the next few days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the Obama administration will announce changes to the system that will award those with automated emergency braking systems, with a specific award sticker to highlight its availability to car buyers. It won’t be a mandatory feature so will still come as an added extra with a lot of cars, but this should encourage automakers to include the technology to help avoid front-end collisions.

Other changes were hinted by at NHTSA head, Mark Rosekind, who said: “Look for innovation in (the NCAP) program. I think that is one of the most effective successful programs that NHTSA has and I would love to see that be a showcase for the kind of innovation that we are going to enact over the next two years.”

He also talked up cars fitted with AEB, suggesting that in the future as it gets more versatile and can handle collision avoidance at speed, it could make a big difference to cutting back on accidents on the road. At the very least, it should allow for more of a reduction in speed before an accident, thereby giving everyone more of a chance to walk away. Some have even suggested that the technology could be as big a change in car safety as when seat belts were first made mandatory. If every car was fitted with AEB, some analysts believe it could cut road deaths by half.

As part of his talk, Rosekind urged new car makers like Google, to focus on safety when it came to their autonomous cars. Of course systems like AEB would be in place with such vehicles, as otherwise they wouldn’t be very effective automated cars, but perhaps like BMW and Baidu, it’s only when teaming up with more established auto-makers, that Google will be able to produce cars with effective, traditional safety measures.

“Take the same really great creative thinking that you put in your technology and put it into safety,” he said. “What can you do with all that brain power that you are putting on the car driving side and put into safety? Show me something new and different in innovation there.”

This seems likely to happen on its own though. As we move towards fully automated vehicles, stopgap safety technologies will be released along the way, helping us improve road-safety immeasurably by removing the fallible human from the equation.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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