New NHTSA Crash Test Ratings Focus On Technology

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One of the most important things people look at when they’re buying a new car is safety. Sure, pricing and features matter, but if it’s rated poorly in crash test, then people are going to walk away. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing changes that will help consumers better understand the modern safety technology in their cars.

NHTSA has been evaluating vehicles since 1978 and a lot has changed over the years. The group has continually modified the evaluation process to reflect those changes with this latest round including a focus on technology. It’s one thing to read that your car has a list of fancy tech, but it’s another to know that it truly makes a difference.

A pedestrian five-star rating will be added to evaluate technology designed to keep you from hitting people. This includes frontal pedestrian automatic emergency braking and rear automatic braking systems. The scope of NHTSA’s testing will now help ensure that you and the people around your car are safe.

They’ll also be testing crash avoidance technology like forward collision warning, emergency braking, lane departure warning, and semiautomtic headlight beam switching. These features are increasingly common in cars, but there’s no way to understand which company does them best. NHTSA aims to change that with their new ratings system.

In addition to the focus on technology, they’ll also be adding a new test called the frontal oblique crash test. This has been used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and is a crash that causes a large number of deaths and injurires in the real world. They will also be using improved dummies to better evaluate how crashes will affect people, particularly children.

According to AutomotiveNews, traffic fatalities on US roads increased 8.1 percent for the first half of 2015 despite cars being safer than ever. Part of the increase is due to cheap gas that has us all driving more, but the numbers show the importance of continually making vehicles safer.

A key part of that process is encouraging manufacturers to keep innovating and improving their designs. Informed consumers aren’t going to buy cars that perform poorly in the safety tests. That’s a huge incentive for automakers to make sure that their safety tech really does the job.

A decision on the proposed changes is due by the end of 2016 with the new system rolling out for the 2019 model year if approved.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin