Active safety gets attention

  • 09-Jul-2008 02:32 EDT
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Joseph Kanianthra said consumers need to know how effective active safety technologies are. To that end, NHTSA has a research program aimed at developing testing procedures to evaluate specific technologies.

Safety advocates are trying to determine what potential technologies are the most substantive and what technologies do not meet the hype.

It is important to “determine the safety impact of new and emerging technologies. This information may be used to help consumers understand what advanced safety features are available, if there are any unintended consequences, and how effective the technologies are,” said Joseph Kanianthra, Senior Technical Advisor and the former Associate Administrator of Vehicle Safety Research for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during the SAE 2008 World Congress’ final session in the AVL Technology Leadership Theater.

The panel’s topic, Strategies for Active Safety Technology Delivery, touched on NHTSA’s Advanced Collision Avoidance Technologies (ACAT) program. Lane-departure warning, back-over alert, blind-spot detection, and brake assist are under the ACAT umbrella.

Kanianthra said that four automakers are working with NHTSA in a research undertaking. “We have four automakers (General Motors, Volvo, Toyota, and Honda) participating with the NHTSA to develop test procedures for evaluating technologies that address specific safety problems—such as rear-end or lane-departure crashes—in the real world,” said Kanianthra.

Having relevant test procedures would enable NHTSA to evaluate those technologies and estimate the associated benefits. If the program pans out, NHTSA “could become the attributor, or the honest broker, to see which test procedure is the best for evaluating all of the technologies for a particular set of problems and then implement those procedures to access the safety potential of vehicles,” said Kanianthra.

Adrian Lund, President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit scientific and educational organization in Virginia, said a recently released IIHS analysis identified the types of crashes that five emerging active-safety technologies (forward collision warning with automatic braking, emergency brake assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, and adaptive headlights) are intended to prevent or mitigate.

IIHS researchers counted crashes from 2002 to 2006 that those five technologies were intended to prevent or mitigate, but additional analysis work will be required. “We need to know what kind of information, or what type of warning, will elicit the right responses from drivers, and we need to know if the driver’s behavior will change in response to an active-safety technology,” said Lund.

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