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In 2012 alone, more than 1.7 million rear-end crashes occurred on our nation’s highways, resulting in more than 1,700 fatalities and 500,000 injured people. Many of these crashes could have been mitigated, or possibly even prevented, had rear-end collision avoidance technologies been in place. However, slow and insufficient action on the part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop performance standards for these technologies and require them in passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as a lack of incentives for manufacturers, has contributed to the ongoing and unacceptable frequency of rear-end crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has an extensive history of investigating rear-end crashes and has encouraged technological countermeasures since 1995. To date, the NTSB has issued 12 recommendations pertaining to this safety issue. In 2001, the NTSB released a Special Investigation Report on rear-end crashes that focused on technology as a potential countermeasure and made several recommendations to federal agencies and vehicle manufacturers (NTSB 2001). Due to a lack of progress in the implementation of NTSB recommendations intended to mitigate or prevent rear-end crashes, the recent technological advancements in collision avoidance technologies, and the continued prevalence of rear-end crashes, the NTSB is revisiting the topic of rear-end crash prevention.
TO THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Expand the New Car Assessment Program 5-star rating system to include a scale that rates the performance of forward collision avoidance systems.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Open - Acceptable Response
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
NHTSA (Open - Acceptable Response)
Safety Recommendation History
As we noted in our June 7, 2016, letter, we are encouraged by your notice of planned enhancements to the NCAP 5-star rating system, including changes to the Monroney label. Please send us an update outlining your planned actions and a timeline for addressing these recommendations. Pending such action, Safety Recommendations H-15-6 and -7 remain classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
We note that, on December 16, 2015, you published a notice of planned enhancements to the NCAP 5-star rating system, including changes to the Monroney label. In our February 16, 2016, comments to your notice (enclosed), we recognized the benefits of the NCAP 5-star rating system and stated that we believe that similar ratings for crash avoidance technologies could speed the deployment of these technologies, as well as encourage manufacturers to improve them continuously. We further urged you to consider providing an ordinal scale in the rating for forward collision warning systems. We are encouraged by the progress you have made toward addressing these recommendations. Pending completion of the recommended actions and our review of the final product, Safety Recommendations H-15-6 and -7 are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D., Administrator: With regard to Safety Recommendations H-15-4 and H-15-5, we request that these recommendations be classified as "Open-Acceptable Response." NHTSA is currently researching forward collision avoidance systems as part of its in-vehicle crash avoidance program. This progran1 encompasses projects that focus on vehicle-based equipment, systems, and technologies-such as forward collision avoidance systems-that help ensure that motor vehicles are optimally prepared to prevent crashes from occurring. These technologies involve on-board equipment, such as sensors or cameras, that do not require communication between vehicles. With regard to Safety Recommendations H -15-6 and H -15-7, we request that these safety recommendations be classified "Open-Acceptable Response." On December 16, 2015, NHTSA published planned enhancements to our New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) that would assess safety ratings for vehicles that incorporate advanced technologies, including forward collision avoidance technologies, and discussed addressing changes to the Monroney label. We believe that these new safety ratings, when adopted, will fully address Safety Recommendations H-15-6 and H-15-7.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) request for comments (RFC), “New Car Assessment Program,” published at 80 Federal Register 241 on December 16, 2015. NHTSA proposes to expand the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to include 5-star safety ratings for crashworthiness, crash avoidance technologies, and pedestrian protection systems. NHTSA believes that the proposed enhancements to NCAP will keep pace with technological advancements and provide consumers with thorough evaluation criteria for current safety technologies. The NTSB appreciates the merits of the intended changes to NCAP and supports NHTSA in this endeavor. The NTSB recognizes the importance of NCAP, both as a means of informing consumers and as a tool for providing incentives to vehicles manufacturers to produce safer vehicles. We applaud NHTSA’s efforts and, based on our experience in conducting crash investigations and tracking safety technologies, offer the following comments organized under five main topics: Crash Avoidance Technologies, Frontal Crashworthiness, Side Crashworthiness, Pedestrian Protection, and the Rating System. The NTSB strongly believes that rating systems such as NCAP influence consumer purchasing decisions and provide incentives for manufacturers to improve their vehicles’ safety systems. The NCAP 5-star safety rating has not only established minimal crashworthiness requirements, but it has also incentivized vehicle manufacturers to make and market the safest vehicles. As a result, nearly all of today’s vehicles have 4- or 5-star crashworthiness safety ratings. The NTSB recognizes the benefits of the NCAP 5-star rating system and believes that similar ratings for crash avoidance technologies could speed the deployment of these technologies, as well as encourage manufacturers to improve them continuously. As such, in May 2015, we recommended that NHTSA incorporate into NCAP a rating system for forward crash avoidance systems (Safety Recommendation H-15-6). In the RFC, NHTSA proposes three separate 5-star safety ratings—for crashworthiness, crash avoidance technologies, and pedestrian protection—as well as a single combined 5-star safety rating. The NTSB is pleased that the new NCAP would not only address our Safety Recommendation H-15-6 but would incorporate other safety technologies as well. The NTSB supports NHTSA’s proposed ratings and offers the following comments for the agency’s consideration. NHTSA states that crash avoidance systems generally have a binary result—they either prevent a crash or they do not prevent it. While this certainly would be the case with systems such as blind spot detection and rollover resistance, the performance of collision warning and crash imminent braking systems is more nuanced. Testing conducted by Euro NCAP shows considerable variability in the quality of collision warning and crash imminent braking systems; some systems are capable of mitigating high-velocity crashes while others are effective only in low-velocity conditions. Still, any system offers a higher level of protection than no system at all. A vehicle that meets the proposed performance standards would offer substantial safety benefits that should be recognized. At the same time, expanded testing protocols with highway scenarios would prompt vehicle manufacturers to improve their systems. Vehicles equipped with improved systems would offer even higher levels of protection, and as such, would deserve bonus points. Therefore, the NTSB believes that NHTSA should consider providing an ordinal scale in the rating for forward collision warning systems. The NTSB hopes that in future iterations of testing procedures for crash imminent braking systems NHTSA will include testing at moderate velocities, beyond the currently proposed maximum velocity-differential of 25 mph. In such scenarios, an ordinal scale for crash imminent braking systems should be considered, as well.
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