U.S. Transportation Department sets national strategy for safer roads, cars

David Beckam

To address vehicle safety, the department plans to follow through on major auto-related provisions in the infrastructure law, which provides nearly $14 billion in new funding for road safety, including $4 billion for improved crash data collection and other vehicle safety programs.

The law, in part, directs the department to publish a notice on proposed updates to NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program and issue a final rule that requires new vehicles to be equipped with advanced drunken and impaired driving prevention technology.

The Transportation Department will develop proposals to update NCAP and provide a longer-term road map for the program this year. It also plans to consider a rule-making effort on vehicle safety standards for the impaired driving prevention technology by 2024, according to a document outlining the safety strategy.

By 2024, the department also expects to initiate a rule-making to mandate automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking on new passenger vehicles — another provision in the infrastructure law.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents most major automakers in the U.S. as well as some suppliers and tech companies, welcomed the department’s strategy, citing the group’s “shared goal” of zero fatalities on U.S. roadways.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with the department to bring about further advances in automotive safety innovation,” John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said in a statement.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety called the department’s strategy a “step in the right direction” to address the growing number of traffic deaths.

But its success will require “swift implementation of identified solutions which have been proven to prevent crashes and save lives,” said Cathy Chase, president of the advocacy group. The department’s commitment to zero roadway deaths “means zero room for hesitation and inaction.”

This month, the department unveiled six guiding principles to help set a strategy for its approach to innovation in transportation, especially as companies deploy more advanced automated technology on vehicles and continue to develop and test autonomous vehicles.

The department, in its safety strategy, said several advanced driver-assistance technologies “are known to help prevent or mitigate the impact of crashes.”

“In addition to setting performance standards and encouraging the adoption of new technologies, it is also important to provide responsible oversight over safety issues,” the department said. “When motor vehicle design or technologies pose unreasonable safety risks to the public, the department will take action to investigate issues, initiate recalls and remedy vehicle defects.”

Chase said she wants to see many of the vehicle safety provisions mentioned in the department’s strategy and required under the bipartisan infrastructure law brought to fruition.

“It’s good to have a plan, but what’s key is the implementation of it,” Chase told Automotive News. “We are very anxious for the department to get going.”

In separate news, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked the Alliance for Automotive Innovation and Buttigieg on Wednesday to develop “uniform standards for swift law enforcement access to vehicle location tracking data in carjacking incidents.”

Durbin said accessing vehicle tracking information from stolen cars “can take law enforcement hours or even weeks.”

Reuters contributed to this report.


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