By on October 22, 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Tuesday that American traffic deaths declined for a second year in a row in 2018. Data indicates a 2.4 percent decline in roadway fatalities last year, with bicyclists and pedestrians being the only groups to see risk moving in the wrong direction.

“This is encouraging news, but still far too many perished or were injured, and nearly all crashes are preventable, so much more work remains to be done to make America’s roads safer for everyone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

The DOT/NHTSA attributed improving automotive safety systems as the primary reason for the decline in deaths, though some of the metrics included in the report’s breakdown suggest other factors could be at play.  (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2019

Image: Toyota

While side-mounted camera systems have been approved as an acceptable replacement for mirrors by much of the developed world, the United States has yet to approve their installation. But it’s under consideration via an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the federal register.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been testing the worthiness of these systems and how drivers interact with them vs traditional mirrors. Now it’s looking for hot takes as research continues.

On Thursday, the NHTSA announced it was also opening the door for public comments on the technology. If you care about this at all (yay or nay), it might be worth offering the agency a well-spoken piece of your mind.  (Read More…)

By on August 28, 2019

With camera systems replacing mirrors on vehicles eligible for sale in other parts of the world, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decided to test how drivers might make use of them in the United States. On Tuesday, the agency said it plans to test “driving behavior and lane change maneuver execution” in cars with traditional mirrors and camera-based visibility systems.

The NHTSA also said it’s soliciting public comments on the matter, signaling that the agency is at lease semi-serious about allowing digital screens to replace old-school mirrors on passenger cars.  (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its preliminary report on how many people died on U.S. roadways in 2018, indicating that overall traffic deaths had likely fallen by 1 percent. While the information doesn’t exactly justify a party, it’s good news after the last few years attempted to provide new footage for the Red Asphalt series.

As the first major spike in traffic deaths since the “Swinging Sixties,” 2015 freaked everyone out a bit. Save for a few annual hiccups, American traffic deaths (contrasted with its population) had been on the decline for decades. However, by the end of 2016, things looked certain — it was becoming less safe to drive in the United States.  (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2019

 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its “Most Wanted List” of Transportation Safety Improvements it would like to see implemented by 2020, placing the obligatory emphasis on enhanced safety regulations. While it’s not surprising that a safety board would be a stickler on the public’s welfare, the NTSB is pushing for more safety nets in an era where cars are less dangerous than ever. That meant the agency’s recommended occupant protection measures dealt more with refining infrastructure and curtailing undesirable behaviors than modifying automobiles — but there was some of that as well.

According to the NTSB, automakers, motorists, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should be focusing on finding better solutions to curtail distracted driving, operating a vehicle under the influence, and speeding. Then, and only then, can we achieve the NTSB’s dream of death-proof driving.  (Read More…)

By on October 29, 2018

by Steve Johnson car headlights

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month that it was willing to considering changing the rules that govern automobile headlights. Now in a comment period before its official review, the proposal would permit automakers to install and enable adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars sold in the United States. While some automakers are preparing themselves for the change, most have been ready for ages.

One one hand, this proposed change should help lousy drivers from burning out your retinas on a lonesome country road. But, by the same token, you may no longer have the delicious opportunity to blast them with the brights once they’re within a few feet of your car to let them know to lower those damned high beams.

Just kidding, that would be illegal. Federal mandates require all drivers to dim their headlights when approaching within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or when approaching a vehicle less than 300 feet ahead. Of course, nobody we know has ever witnessed this law being actively enforced — even though it’s probably as dangerous as moderate speeding infractions. Regardless, it’ll gradually become a non-issue if the rules change.  (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2018

With Honda and General Motors teaming up on a self-driving car and GM’s Super Cruise getting the green light from Consumer Reportsit’s already been a busy week for automotive autonomy — and it’s only getting busier.

The U.S. Transportation Department plans to repudiate 10 locations previously outlined by the previous administration to serve as federally recognized proving grounds for self-driving vehicle tech. But don’t think for a second that this means the noose is tightening around the neck of autonomous testing. The Trump administration is preparing a new initiative that will lead to nationwide testing from just about anyone who can cobble together a vehicle with advanced driving aids.  (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2018

fairfax line assembly factory general motors, Image: General Motors

President Donald Trump was obsessed with U.S. employment long before being sworn in as Commander-in-chief. In fact, the jobs rhetoric played a major role in swaying traditionally democratic voters in states like Michigan. The promise of manufacturing positions, the kind of work American used to be known for, was too tempting for some living in the Rust Belt to ignore.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” he told Detroit’s auto workers in March 2017, referencing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy. “We’re going to help the companies, and they’re going to help you.”

Those fuel economy rollbacks are now fast approaching, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency released their official proposal last week. But will it truly help bolster employment rates in the United States? The answer depends largely upon who you ask. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

Andrew Wheeler, the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the United States needs a single standard for fuel efficiency for cars and trucks on Tuesday. It’s a sentiment shared by Mary Nichols, head of California Air Resources Board, but it’s likely to put the two at odds. Wheeler said the pair shared that singular goal based off a meeting held last week, but California isn’t seeking the same benchmarks as the current administration.

The state objects to the EPA’s plan to weaken Obama-era efficiency targets, and is currently in the midst of a political and legal battle with the agency. However, Wheeler confirmed that, under his watch, the group would continue seeking a “50-state solution.”  (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2018

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, claims it’s too soon to begin imposing rules on self-driving vehicles. Thus far, the NHTSA as taken a supremely lax posture on handling autonomous vehicles in the hopes that a softer touch will assist in their swift development.

However, a cluster of fatal incidents involving advanced driving technology created fresh paranoia within the government.

While the argument could be made that those accidents demand a response from federal regulators, it’s also clear the government doesn’t have a firm grasp on the technology. Likewise, there’s little consensus among automakers that have only recently begun discussing how these vehicles should be standardized, and loads of conflicting opinions exist on the matter of safety. In the short term, advanced electronic aids allow motorists to become worse at driving. But, if fully autonomous vehicles function as intended, their long-term safety benefits could be immense.

The NHTSA claims the resulting confusion means it’s too early in the process to make any kind of definitive rulings. (Read More…)

By on April 6, 2018

dot headquarters

It’s been over a year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had someone officially running the show. While plenty of political appointments have been held up by Senate approval, the NHTSA is one President Trump has neglected since taking office. Former General Electric executive Heidi King has been the Deputy Administrator since September, and will be the one Trump taps to assume overall leadership of the agency. It’s about time.

The NHTSA has to cope with the planned fuel efficiency changes, oversee the neverending Takata airbag recalls, and start doing some damage control with autonomous vehicle development. While the recall issues are likely to remain business as usual, the current administration has pursued lax standards for both autonomous safety and corporate efficiency rules — and both have seen growing opposition.

Entire states are already pushing back against the proposed fuel efficiency rollbacks and there have been two fatalities involving self-driving and semi-autonomous technology within the last month. Because of this, promoting King might be a wise choice. Her corporate ties have some people concerned she’ll go easy on businesses, but at least she already has some experience in dealing with the big issues.  (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2018

driving Golden Gate

Automotive recalls in the United States dropped to the lowest level since 2013 last year. In 2017, domestic recalls fell to 30.7 million — far less than 2016’s record high of 53 million. That’s good news, right?

Probably. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demands manufacturers be Johnny-on-the-spot with fixes ever since General Motors’ ignition switch scandal back in 2014. That means it’s either gotten incredibly lax in its duties under Donald Trump’s watch or automakers simply had a better year. While the NHTSA suffered important staff shortages for literally all of 2017 and has seen the current administration pressing for less regulation overall, the recall decline could also be attributed to the Takata airbag inflator situation finally winding down.

However, it’s no secret that the Obama administration wanted to see the safety administration exercising its regulatory muscle. In 2016, automakers issued a record 924 recall campaigns. That number fell to 813 last year. The NHTSA has also neglected to impose new vehicle safety fines since Trump took office and been operating without permanent leadership for more than 13 months.  (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2018

It’s no secret that the Trump administration will eventually come forward with a relaxed version of existing automotive fuel economy targets. Despite previously agreeing to them, most automakers have decided Obama-era goals are less than ideal and have reached out to the current president to take it easy on them — something he appears willing to do.

However, the White House is going to have to sell the decrease to numerous states that claim they won’t accept such a proposal, as well as a driving public that likely doesn’t want to spend more money on fuel than it has to. Fortunately, the administration has a strategy for this, and has tapped the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for backup. It’s trying to prove that cutting fuel economy would actually make vehicles safer.  (Read More…)

By on January 23, 2018

2016 Ford Explorer

After receiving negative attention from various policing agencies over a potential carbon monoxide leak in Explorer-based Interceptor Utility vehicles, Ford is being urged by the Center for Auto Safety to recall over a million vehicles. While the automaker hasn’t yet done so, it hasn’t been sitting on its hands, either. The automaker issued technical service bulletins to service centers, dispatched its own investigative teams to examine police fleets, and said it would work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the agency conducted a probe of its own.

Ultimately, Ford said the vehicles were safe — attributing the claimed monoxide leaks to aftermarket modifications common on police vehicles. However, it also agreed to examine and repair any Explorer (for civilian or official use) in the hopes of reassuring worried owners. Meanwhile, customer complaints ballooned after news of the story broke.

In July of 2016, the NHTSA had fewer than 200 Explorer-related grievances on file. The Center for Auto Safety claims that number has now grown to 1,400.  (Read More…)

By on January 16, 2018

After what feels like an eternity, the Trump Administration finally feels confident in releasing its alternative to efficiency rules created under former President Barack Obama. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will provide the details on the new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks sometime before the end of March.

This will be followed by partisan arguments as to why it’s the best and worst idea in the world. (Read More…)

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