Crash-test dummies to get upgrades for driver-assist era

A crash test dummy is seen in the driver's seat of a car in Duebendorf, Switzerland, on Aug 22, 2019.
A crash test dummy is seen in the driver's seat of a car in Duebendorf, Switzerland, on Aug 22, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

United States auto safety regulators next year will propose several changes to federal crash-testing standards that critics say have failed to keep pace with new vehicle technologies and lag behind other nations.

The US New Car Assessment Program will evaluate new technologies and upgrade testing and ratings processes - even the celebrated crash-test dummies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The agency said it will also consider technologies linked to pedestrian and cyclist safety and plans to solicit public comment on changes next year.

Regulators overseas and private-sector, vehicle-safety testers have begun to evaluate new driver-assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking.

In 2016, NHTSA added automatic emergency braking to its list of "recommended" technologies, but it does not currently factor in its safety ratings formula.

The announcement comes as auto safety and consumer advocates urge the agency to toughen crash-testing standards that they say have fallen behind global counterparts and offer less value to consumers than they once did.

For example, most new cars available today achieve four or five out of a possible five stars on NHTSA's safety ratings scale, meaning consumers may struggle to differentiate the safety levels of new cars, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group and other advocates, including former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook, plan to call on NHTSA to make major improvements at a press conference in Washington on Thursday.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Crash-test dummies to get upgrades for driver-assist era'. Print Edition | Subscribe