Automatic Braking Systems: Enforceable federal safety standards vs voluntary industry standards

Should we be concerned that NHTSA is leaning toward accepting voluntary standards to be written by the automotive industry regarding automatic braking systems for cars rather than developing federal standards?

Safety advocates are raising concerns about this:

The technology automatically applies brakes to prevent or mitigate collisions, rather than waiting for the driver to act. It’s the most important safety technology available today that’s not already required in cars.

Such systems should be standard in all new cars, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But instead of mandating it, the government is trying to work out a voluntary agreement with automakers in hopes of getting it in cars more quickly.

But safety advocates say voluntary agreements aren’t enforceable and are likely to contain weaker standards and longer timelines than if the government had issued rules. Safety groups want braking mandate

And Michael Lemov would certainly think so based upon what I read in his historical , eye-opening book, Car Safety Wars: One Hundred Years of Technology, Politics, and Death:

Voluntary industry standards, in any industry, have the reputation of often being weak standards. They are enforceable only through publicity and public awareness, not by government action. The level of such voluntary standards, set by industry committees with limited public participation, can be that demanded by the weakest company, the one with the tightest profit margins. Voluntary standards are ‘consensus’ standards, based on agreement of all industry participants. In dealing with the lives and safety of so many people, safety standards, are, and were then, matters not of consensus but of public importance. (Lemov, p. 94)  Congress, Please give NHTSA the authority & resources to do their job and keep us safe on the road!

And read more here:

I’m all for getting safety solutions implemented as quickly as possible. But what is the most realistic and comprehensive means of getting this accomplished in a way that will have far-reaching and enforceable results? That’s what I want to know.


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