In the wake of a record number of industry recalls, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief, Mark Rosekind is encouraging auto makers to work alongside safety regulators. The NHTSA hopes to foster an environment of proactive safety advancements by rewarding auto makers who can reduce the number of fatalities on our roads.
Rosekind notes that an era marked by record recalls and civil penalties levied against auto makers is not a sign of progress, but rather an indicator that too many lives have been lost. In 2014, 32,675 fatalities were documented on U.S. roads. Early indicators project that figure to rise for 2015.
The top U.S. car-safety administrator remains objective about the advent of improved safety technologies, realizing it could take years for new technology to reach market.
With the idea of a proactive safety culture in mind, 10 automobile manufacturers have agreed to turn forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking into less of a “luxury” item by making them standard features on vehicles. However, even the car maker’s most enthusiastic supporters admit it could be seven to eight years before this becomes a reality.
Rosekind is prepared to mandate a schedule for implementing the new standard safety features, but hopes that automobile manufacturers will see the reward for getting it done before any deadline- the reward of safer vehicles and fewer lives lost.
The ultimate goal that the NHTSA strives for is zero driving fatalities. With Rosekind’s term expiring within the year, that achievement is not likely to be met before he moves on. However, Rosekind prefers to measure success, not by finding remedies safety issues, but rather by encouraging everyone to work together to prevent the problems from happening in the first place.
One concern of auto makers is that sharing technology will lead to security hacks. Rosekind hopes that auto makers can conquer their cybersecurity issues without the government having to issue major car-safety initiatives. He points out that by the time regulations are imposed, the technology is outdated and the net result is no lives have been saved.
The safety culture of the NHTSA has changed over the years from working to protect vehicle occupants during inevitable car crashes to avoiding the accidents entirely. Rosekind strives to remove the element of human error which is the primary cause of all car accidents.
He is campaigning for semi-autonomous vehicles and the use of a Driver Alcohol Detection System that will not allow a vehicle to be started if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath or his or her thumb via a laser.
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