By on December 9, 2015


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday announced significant changes to its tests and rating system for every new car in the U.S. Beginning in 2018, new cars will be rated on a five-star system, in half-star increments (for the first time), and will encompass information from new tests — including front overlap crashes already in use by other safety organizations — and pedestrian impact information.

The proposed changes would place an emphasis on active safety features such as blind spot monitoring and crash avoidance systems. The announcement Tuesday followed a statement last month that the agency would recommend automatic emergency braking on new cars beginning in 2018.

“The changes provide more and better information to new-vehicle shoppers that will help accelerate the technology innovations that saves lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The proposed changes by NHTSA include a “frontal oblique crash” test similar to tests already used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The frontal oblique crash would measure the relative safety of a car struck at a 15-degree angle by an object that overlaps 35 percent of the overall car width, on the driver’s side only, according to the proposed rules.

The test mimics the IIHS’s moderate overlap and small overlap crash tests, of which the latter has been particularly onerous for manufacturers to ace.

NHTSA also announced it would test pedestrian safety for new vehicles by measuring head and leg injuries when struck by those vehicles and use new dummies to better measure injuries for drivers and passengers in crashes.

“NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings program was the first of its kind, and the idea has now spread around the world,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a statement Tuesday. “Today, we’re adding to that legacy of global safety leadership, ensuring that American consumers have the best possible information about how to protect themselves and their families, and taking a significant step forward in our efforts to save lives and prevent injuries.”

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17 Comments on “NHTSA Unveils New Tests, New 5-star Safety Rating System for Cars...”

  • avatar

    Why accompany the article with an Opel/Vauxhall Astra G?

  • avatar

    Active safety features are great, but to what extent will they limit driver liability in the future? In 2012, drivers of Mercedes vehicles equipped with backup cameras actually filed more insurance claims. However, the study found that the cameras successfully reduced the overall property damage liability claims.


    We are convinced that active safety features are incredibly useful devices that make cares safer, but only when used properly. There is no replacement for the active safety device installed between your ears.

    • 0 avatar

      Yet, there is very little interest from drivers in dedicating their mental ability to the driving task, preferring instead to use that to check their screens.

      It’s going to become more ambiguous legally in the future when you have an accident that involves a car with many of these active safety features. The owner is responsible now, no doubt, but eventually, some case will establish that an algorithm either gave a false sense of safety to the driver, or removed a decision point from them and rendered them unable to prevent an accident.

      I would be surprised if black box data does not get mandated eventually as a standard in every vehicle. The car companies will really want to protect themselves by having data showing if a driver is constantly drifting, or the AEB gets activated on most braking events, etc. Maybe even video of the driver, or from other vehicles’ onboard cams (i.e, backup cam footage from the car in front, etc).

  • avatar

    I love how the NHSTA is finally realizing that a IIHS crash test rating is more relevant than the basic gov’t test. I can’t wait for the day where the US government crash test is equivlent to NCAP. Then, it would be easier and less expensive and substantially easier for consumer baised imporration.

  • avatar
    George B

    I sure hope that the NHSTA pedestrian safety test doesn’t lead to a US regulatory requirement. Hate how the European requirement has made many cars tall and bloated looking. Bring back low, long, wide!

    • 0 avatar

      We’re just returning to the tall, practical setup of cars before and just after WWII.

      Long, low, and wide looks cool, but is harder to park and takes up more garage space. The average driver cares more about seating position than “driving dynamics.”

      • 0 avatar

        And also the 80’s, with things like the Prairie/Axxess, Wagovan, and Tercel wagon, etc.

        And the early 00’s, with the Avantime!

        I’m in favor of tall and upright things with lots of space*.

        *As long as they also have good visibility.

    • 0 avatar

      NHTSA is all about finding new things to mandate, in order to “justify” their existence and their budget. Pedestrian safety awareness is just a step on the road they have gone down many times before.

      A five point system in half point increments? What is the difference between that and a one to ten scale, except to look like you have made an improvement when you really haven’t.

      And AEB? Follow me for a minute. A large double sheet of newspaper gets blown out into the street on a windy day. Its size is larger than a child. A car’s AEB, unable to distinguish its thickness from a frontal view, slams on the brakes, causing the car behind to rear end it.

      Legislation will have already been passed to exempt the government and the manufacturer from liability for this kind of accident.

      Several passengers and both drivers (maybe more, if there is a chain reaction) end up with whiplash injuries, large medical bills, and perhaps lifelong pain and impaired mobility.

      Everybody’s insurance bill goes up.

      And the article NHTSA publishes about lives saved by AEB never mentions false stop accidents, or consequent economical damages, either direct or throughout society, from this latest experiment in trying to over-engineer the driving experience.

      Red Barchetta.

  • avatar

    I think it’s good that the NHTSA is raising the bar for a “five-star” rating. This is a good way of promoting increased safety without new regulations.

  • avatar

    Automatic Emergency Braking is a step in the right direction given the level of distraction behind the wheel these days. That’s the new “normal” so whatever gets us closer to self-driving cars is fine by me. Mind you, do I want to rely on an algorithm in the next lane to keep me safe?

    Especially driving through an urban environment it takes all of me to maintain awareness of every distracted driver, rider and ped. Who knows, maybe I could appreciate AEB as a failsafe.

    It’s so easy for me to get on that soap box.

  • avatar

    Expect for this to result in almost all current luxury safety items becoming standard on most cars. It seems crazy good that you can get almost every safety option currently available as a 1K option on any new Accord.

  • avatar

    I don’t want the nannies. I want a vehicle that will let me survive a crash despite the nannies.

  • avatar

    So, with these changes, when will we see the first 12 inch a-pillar? I got a fiver on before 2020…

  • avatar

    The question is: How much more inattentive will drivers be with all the nannies that make them feel like they don’t need to pay attention to avoid an accident?

    People, at least in this country, seem to have an attitude that they can be as careless as they want and all the safety features on cars and machinery will keep them from getting hurt. Is it just me or do others find this mentality scary?

    • 0 avatar

      It scares the hell out of me to think that the guy in front of me will be texting like hell, not worrying about the car in front of him, because of AEB. Then the car ahead slows down to make a left turn, and his AEB jams hard to avoid an accident.

      Now I have to worry about not rear ending him because of his abrupt stop. In most states, the car behind will be the legally responsible party, and the AEB will let the careless driver off the hook. Even if I have AEB, there is a good chance an airbag might go off.

      I agree with the comment that I want a car that keeps me safe if there is an accident, not a car that thinks it can make better situational judgments than I can, no matter how complex the situation.

      Get the careless drivers off the road. Don’t make it easier for them to be more careless, and to inflict more injuries and panic driving changes on other drivers because of their enhanced carelessness, caused and supported by AEB.

  • avatar

    But red turn signals are still OK? Safety my bottom…

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