NHTSA official thanks engineers during SAE Congress keynote

  • 27-Apr-2012 12:15 EDT
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NHTSA's David Strickland was the keynote speaker on the final day of SAE 2012 World Congress. He thanked engineers for "solving the impossible."

Of course, passive and active safety systems are not designed by robots. It is engineers who make the seemingly impossible technologies possible.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland acknowledged the contributions of technical experts in his keynote address April 26 in the AVL Technology Leadership Center.

“I’d like to recognize what this group has done,” Strickland told his engineering audience, adding, “There’s a lot of hard work from a lot of people to make cars safer.”

The agency’s engineers are working on several safety-related issues, including an in-vehicle driver’s alcohol detection system that would prevent an intoxicated person from operating a vehicle.

“We’re in phase two of this research,” Strickland said, noting that in 2010—the first time he addressed an SAE Congress audience—more than 10,000 people died as a result of alcohol-impaired driving crashes.

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications are in the agency’s headlights.

The potential for V2V to help drivers avoid crashes is a technology focal point for automakers and suppliers. Strickland cited intersection intervention as a prime example of V2V being used “to prevent a moment of chaos.”

Excluding instances of driver impairment, he said it is possible that connected-vehicle technology could eliminate 80% of all crashes, “so there’s a tremendous promise to save lives.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation and its research partners will test connected-vehicle technology via a pilot program in Ann Arbor, MI. The research effort, which is slated to start later this year and wrap in 2013, will involve more than 2500 vehicles with integrated V2V technology, ranging from embedded devices and aftermarket safety devices to transmission-only vehicle awareness devices.

Strickland said NHTSA will either take a V2V rule-making posture or determine “if we have more work to do” in 2013.

The agency is also close to finalizing a rule for improving rearward visibility in passenger vehicles.

During a brief Q&A session, Strickland was asked about cell phone usage in-vehicle.

Strickland said those “nomadic” devices are omnipresent in vehicles, but regulations are spotty.

“There’s a regulatory doughnut-hole,” Strickland said. He pointed out that 38 states currently ban drivers from texting in-vehicle.

On the topic of self-driving vehicles, Strickland said “That’s a policy case we’ll have to come to when we actually see that happen.” He added that autonomous-vehicle technology shows promise, but there are several issues, including cyber security, transitioning from semi-to-full autonomous driving, and “host of other questions.”

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