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®: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

Electronic Reflexes and Regulations
NHTSA is engaged in a concerted effort to evaluate and eventually mandate the application of advanced safety technologies. The new highway bill adds steam to this program by directing the agency to undertake rulemakings to "reduce vehicle rollover crashes and mitigate deaths and injuries...." Meanwhile, NHTSA's internal regulatory and research plan states that the agency's "crash avoidance vehicle safety standards mandate improvements in...crash-avoidance capabilities...."

Technologies in the marketplace and those still undergoing testing may be able to achieve at least some of NHTSA's goals. Members of the automotive press were given the opportunity to test drive a vehicle equipped with Continental's prototype Active Passive Integration Approach (APIA) safety system. Continental's Total Safety Concept car uses an array of sensors and other systems to warn drivers, through tactile and other signals, that they are approaching a vehicle in an unsafe manner.

The company dubs APIA as "electronic reflexes." Should the driver ignore APIA's warnings, braking systems are activated, seatbelts pretension, windows close and other safety measures are triggered. APIA attempts to prevent a crash and, if that proves impossible, protect the occupants.

To this reporter, the APIA was quite impressive, alerting the driver to possible collision risks and activating progressively more systems as the situation warranted. However, public policy cannot be based on the subjective views of journalists or other test subjects.

Continental has made clear that they would like to see technology such as theirs mandated by the government. As their literature explains, "We believe that proven safety equipment should be standard, not an option." What is lacking so far is a formal, reliable model for quantitatively estimating the benefits from APIA-type systems. Only then will NHTSA be able to perform the necessary analyses and determine how such technologies may fit into an overall strategy for further improving highway safety.

Bruce Scott Levinson
Contributing Editor
Ultimate Hummers Magazine