SAFETY TECH: A US safety board wants all cars to have standard collision warning systems such as Toyota's Safety Sense technology. Image: Toyota
WASHINGTON, Washington DC — Automakers should immediately include, as standard equipment in all new cars and commercial trucks, systems that automatically brake or warn drivers to avoid a rear-end collision.
That's the content of a just-released US National Transportation Safety Board report.
Such systems could prevent or make less severe more than 80% of US rear-end collisions that cause about 1700 deaths and a half-million injuries each year, the report said.
There are about 1.7-million rear-enders each year in the US.
ONLY MERC, SUBARU
Some collision-avoidance systems warn the drivers that a collision is imminent but don't brakebrake. The board recommended that warning systems be made standard then add auto braking after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration completed standards for them.
The board said it had recommended the adoption of collision-avoidance or other steps to encourage their use a dozen times through the past 20 years but the report called progress "very limited." Only four of 684 passenger vehicle models in 2014 included automatic braking systems as standard: the Mercedes-Benz G Class 4x4, an SUV; the Subaru Forester and Outback, also SUV's, and the Subaru Legacy, a mid-sized sedan.
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When the systems are offered as options (in the US) they are typically on high-end vehicles such as Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus and are often bundled with non-safety features such as heatable seats or faux leather interiors, making the overall package more expensive.
NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said: "You don't pay extra for your seat belt and you shouldn't have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision."
The US Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said collision avoidance systems should remain optional. Vice-president Gloria Bergquist said: "There are almost two dozen driver assist systems on sale now. Some buyers might prefer a 360-degree camera view or automatic parking. Automakers see automatic braking as helpful to buyers, but buyers should decide what they want and need."
SAFETY RATING SYSTEMS
The board also recommended that federal regulators develop tests and standards to rate the performance of each vehicle's collision-avoidance system and to incorporate those results into an expanded government safety rating system.
"Slow and insufficient action on the part of the (highway traffic administration) 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 report said.
A complete collision avoidance system works by monitoring the road around the vehicle either with light detection, radar, cameras or a fusion of several technologies. When it detects a conflict, it begins by alerting the driver through visual or audible warning cues and preparing the brakes in anticipation of braking.
If the conflict persists, the systems apply the brakes or adds additional brake pressure if the driver has already begun braking, but not hard enough.
BUT IS IT SAFE?
The effectiveness of the systems depends heavily on the accuracy and timeliness of detection of the conflict, which can fluctuate depending on the quality of the installed sensors, cameras and target detection algorithms used.
The traffic safety administration is investigating complaints that the autonomous braking systems on newer Jeep Grand Cherokees can come on for no reason, increasing the risk of rear-end crashes.
The traffic safety administration sets safety standards for cars and trucks and orders recalls for defective vehicles, while the safety board investigates crashes and makes safety recommendations.