New Car Five-Star Safety Ratings Program Upgrades Proposed By NHTSA

Federal highway safety officials have proposed upgrades to the Five-Star safety ratings program used for new cars, indicating four new driver assistance technologies should be tested at research facilities for consideration in the ratings, as part of an ongoing effort to encourage vehicle manufacturers to invest in the life-saving technologies.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposal on January 14, indicating new advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will be added to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), specifically focusing on crash avoidance and pedestrian safety technologies.

The list of technologies which will be incorporated into the Five-Star safety ratings include lane keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and blind spot intervention.  According to the NHTSA, research has shown these systems mitigate high-frequency and high-risk crash types, especially to pedestrians.

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The proposal includes lane keeping support, which is designed to prevent drivers from unintentionally drifting out of their lanes. It also includes blind spot warning and intervention technologies, which are comprised of a set of sensors surrounding the vehicle to monitor and detect blind spot collision threats. The systems issue visual and audible alerts when a pending collision threat is detected after a driver activates a turn signal.

The last technology proposed is pedestrian automatic emergency braking (PAEB), which is similar to current AEB technologies, but is designed to provide automatic braking for vehicles when pedestrians are in the forward path of the vehicle’s travel. The systems are designed with forward-looking sensors to apply or supplement the brakes is a pedestrian is in imminent danger of being struck.

PAEB are designed specifically to prevent, or mitigate the impact of the most common pedestrian collisions including head-on collisions, turning right or left at crossroads, and striking pedestrians walking along or against traffic.

With the number of pedestrian fatalities reaching the highest levels recorded in more than three decades in 2019, officials indicated implementing advanced pedestrian safety systems in new vehicles could save more than 6,000 lives annually.

The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) released a pedestrian fatality report in May 2019, which reviewed incident reports from 2008 through 2018. The agency identified an upward trend in fatalities, citing a 43% increase in pedestrian fatalities when comparing the beginning and end of the ten year period.

The Five-Star Safety Ratings system, known as NCAP, is a government safety rating for new vehicles entering the market. The vehicles are crash-tested at NHTSA research facilities, and rated on how well they protect occupants in frontal, side and rollover crashes. The results from the tests are then organized into a rating system from “1” to “5” stars with 5 being the highest. These ratings appear on window stickers of new cars sold throughout the U.S. and serve as a reassurance for vehicle buyers that the vehicle they are purchasing is a safe choice.

The current safety rating program includes a checklist of advanced technology features including rear-visibility cameras, and forward collision warning sensors and automatic emergency braking systems.


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