NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart called for collision avoidance technology to be standard equipment on all new vehicles.

Federal officials are recommending – again – that collision avoidance systems be made standard equipment on all new vehicles: free of charge.

“You don’t pay extra for your seat belt, and you shouldn’t have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether,” said Christopher Hart, chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The agency released a 60-page report outlining the need for the technology, suggesting that more than 80% of the 1,700 deaths and 500,000 injuries in the 1.7 million rear-end collisions in 2012 could have been eliminated or lessened if the technology were mandated.

Currently, the technology is typically available on high-priced vehicles as part of a larger suite of technologies, such as adaptive cruise control. Including the option on a vehicle generally adds at least $1,000 to the price of the vehicle. Aftermarket versions can be purchased for as little as $1,100.

The NTSB reported that only four passenger vehicles – out of 684 models – included the technology as standard equipment last model year. It’s not the first time the agency has pushed for this mandate: it said the same thing three years ago in a similar report. The agency’s sister organization, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, agrees … at least about the effectiveness of the technology.

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A recent NHTSA modeling study indicated collision warning systems would be effective in 42% of rear-end crash situations where the lead vehicle was decelerating, and effective in 75% of rear-end crashes where the lead vehicle was not moving. Overall, collision-warning systems would be 51% effective.

The NTSB has made 12 recommendations over 20 years in favor of forward collision avoidance technologies, including 10 recommendations resulting from an earlier Special Investigation Report in 2001.

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The progress on these recommendations, however, has been very limited. The report notes that a lack of incentives and limited public awareness has stunted the wide adoption of collision avoidance technology. Hart doesn’t want to hear about costs or waiting for a better iteration of the technology.

“The promise of a next generation of safety improvements has been used too often to justify inaction,” Hart said. “Because there will always be better technologies over the horizon, we must be careful to avoid letting perfection become the enemy of the good.”

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The NTSB recommends that NHTSA develop tests and standards in order to rate the performance of each vehicle’s collision avoidance systems and to incorporate those results into an expanded NCAP five-star safety rating scale.

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