On Thursday, January 22, 2015, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to change its safety ratings program for passenger vehicles by adding two automatic emergency braking systems to the agency’s recommended advanced safety features. NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program currently awards up to five stars to vehicles based on safety features.  Under the proposed change, the two automatic emergency braking systems – crash imminent braking (CIB) and dynamic brake support (DBS) – would be considered by NHTSA when deciding a vehicle’s safety rating.  The proposed change to NHTSA’s safety ratings program is currently in a 60-day public comment period.

According to a NHTSA report, one-third of reported vehicle crashes in 2013 were initiated by rear-end collisions.  In many of these crashes, NHTSA found that drivers didn’t apply their brakes with enough pressure or at all.  Automatic braking systems can mitigate or prevent rear-end collisions by detecting the proximity of another vehicle through a forward-facing sensor and applying pressure to the brakes to aid a driver in stopping the vehicle short of impact.

NHTSA’s recent recommendation could impact a consumer’s decision when purchasing a new car or influence an automaker’s decision when designing new vehicle models.  This recommendation also follows closely on the heels of NHTSA’s issuance of a final rule requiring the gradual phase in of rear-view cameras in passenger vehicles, which was discussed in a prior blog post.  These recent actions demonstrate the agency’s focus on the development and use of new technologies to keep drivers and passengers safe while travelling on roadways.