“We want to focus initially on rolling out automatic-emergency braking. Let’s hope all the cameras and sensors work after the car is repaired,” said Mark Rosekind, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator, during the Washington, D.C., Auto Show on Thursday. “When vehicles are repaired, including windshield replacement, let’s hope this technology works correctly.
“[A]utomation technology promises the biggest revolution in the history of roadway safety,” he said. “Since the Model T, vehicle safety has focused on assuming that some crashes are inevitable, and designing to reduce the carnage. Today, it is not science fiction to suggest that technology could, sometime in the not-too-distant future, help us avoid the vast majority of fatal crashes.”
Over the last year, NHTSA has worked to ensure that all vehicle owners, and not just those buying luxury cars, can reap the benefits of advances in safety technology, he explained.
However, he noted that it takes 20-30 years for a full penetration, or turnover, of the American fleet, so it could be a while until autonomous vehicles, or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), are on the roads in large numbers.
The driver must not take this technology for granted, Rosekind said. While ADAS can assist with avoiding crashes, the driver must remain in control of the vehicle.
“We still have to focus on the human element,” he said. “This is the last critical aspect before the crash. And the infrastructure has to be looked at [to support the new technology and connected vehicles].”
Traffic fatalities have increased 8.1 percent for the first six months of 2015 over the prior year, Rosekind noted. It is still too early, however, to identify the potential cause for this upswing, he said.
“What is causing this increase? We don’t know yet,” Rosekind said.
Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary, also spoke on Thursday.
“Autonomous vehicles are a great innovation story,” he said. “It’s surprised a lot of us by how fast this technology is coming at us.”