In 2010, US highway deaths fell to its lowest level since 1949. Even more impressive is that Americans traveled more than 21 billion extra miles than they did in 1949. This is a monumental achievement, and one each automaker should be proud of: cars today are built stronger, smarter, and safer than ever before. But the NHTSA wants to do better.
To save more lives, especially at intersections or while changing lanes, the NHTSA is planning and studying multiple approaches, and nearly all of them begin with advanced crash avoidance technology, such as autonomous-vehicle and vehicle-to-vehicle communication (new acronym alert: V2V!), brake-throttle override, and Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). Of course, the NHTSA is continuing its full-court attack on distracted driving, too.
“We envision, and are working to create, a new safety era that will revolve around safe vehicle designs and emerging technologies,” said Ronald Medford, deputy administrator-NHTSA. “On the horizon are some very promising crash-avoidance technologies that we think will help us to save more lives.”
The NHTSA will conduct autonomous vehicle and V2V studies this summer; the agency is also seeking public comment on the brake-throttle override (read why we’re not fond of the idea here), and is continuing to work on DADSS, which would immobilize a vehicle if the system’s breath analyzer detected a BAC level of “you probably shouldn’t be driving.” NHTSA also hopes DADSS could be equipped with infrared lighting that can measure alcohol concentration in a driver’s skin.
Automotive.com’s take: It’s hard to get excited about technology that is far away. Harder still if that technology is complex or burdensome to use. Which is funny, because safety on the road is the most important part of driving. And that’s precisely why we believe more effort should be placed on educating smarter drivers, and not allowing the smart technology to correct mindless driving.