Consumer groups also claim that NHTSA is focusing too much on autonomous vehicle technology, rather than systems that are available today.

The Consumer Watchdog, the Center for Auto Safety, and Public Citizen are jointly suing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States because the agency is allegedly acting too slowly on mandating automatic emergency braking systems. The groups also assert that a voluntary agreement between NHTSA and 20 automakers doesn’t go far enough to get the potentially life-saving technology on the road.

This trio of consumer advocacy groups submitted a petition to NHTSA in January 2016 that requested that the agency mandate automatic emergency braking. The auto safety regulator was supposed to reply by May 12 but never responded. This lawsuit aims to force NHTSA into ruling on the groups’ demands. The consumer advocates claim that adopting the tech would prevent an estimated 910,000 crashes a year.

If NHTSA mandates the tech, the consumer groups want it to include three provisions. There would be a collision alert through audio or visual signals. If a driver doesn’t respond, then the vehicle would automatically apply the brakes. In addition, the system would apply supplemental braking if the person behind the wheel doesn’t apply enough pressure to stop in time.

Instead of mandating automatic emergency braking, NHTSA announced voluntary adoption of tech by 20 automakers. The companies, including big names like Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Volkswagen Group, promised to make the equipment a standard feature on 99 percent of new vehicles by September 1st, 2022. At the time, NHTSA and the business touted that the agreement made the system standard equipment three years faster than through the normal regulatory process. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also quoted far lower estimates that Automatic Emergency Braking could prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries in three years.

The consumer advocacy groups claim that making the system’s acceptance voluntary for these companies is unenforceable and allows them “roll out weak versions of the technology” by allegedly not needing to adhere federal safety protections.

“NHTSA continues to allow automakers to introduce advanced safety features at their own pace, by issuing ‘voluntary’ guidelines with no force of law,” said Michael Brooks, acting director at the Center for Auto Safety, in the consumer groups’ announcement.

In addition, the advocacy groups claim that NHTSA has put too much effort into regulating autonomous vehicles. They claim that self-driving tech is still in its infancy, while automatic emergency braking is ready right now. In fact, the IIHS already tests the generally optional systems as a criterion for earning the vaunted Top Safety Pick+ honor.

Source: Consumer Watchdog via The Detroit News

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