For years, our cars have been getting smarter and taking on more and more responsibilities that were once exclusive to their human drivers.
Now, in a move to keep pace with the quickly modernizing industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will begin incorporating that technology into its famous 5-Star Safety Rating.
The change was announced this week after lawmakers passed a bill outlining the new tests the agency should undertake. Specifically, the NHTSA will be analyzing crash prevention technologies and those designed to help mitigate crashes as part of its New Car Assessment Program.
The bill, which allots $305 billion for the new testing, among many other initiatives, will also allow the national organization to conduct more tests on angled frontal crashes and acquire new, more human-like crash dummies.
The updated assessments will rate technology that has the potential to save 10,000 lives annually and prevent 28% of all vehicle crashes, saving taxpayers more than $250 million a year in societal costs, according to Steve Handschuh, president of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association.
In a year that saw national traffic-related deaths rise by 8%, that type of potential was lauded by a rare bipartisan coalition in Washington, which ensured the traffic bill was quickly passed.
"It's a terrific development for safety that technology is making our vehicles safer than ever," NHTSA president Mark Rosekind told reporters after the bill was passed on Tuesday. "By improving our 5-Star Safety Ratings, we’ll make it even easier for consumers to shop for safety. And, we’ll better encourage automakers to deliver more advanced life-saving technologies in the cars and trucks we drive."