The federal agency responsible for conducting independent crash investigations has recommended technologies in new vehicles to limit speeding and prevent drunk driving in an attempt to reduce the growing number of related fatal crashes.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation of alcohol-disruption detection systems is on track for the requirement, after the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gave the Department of Transportation three years to write a mandate for such a feature in new vehicles. However, the board’s new recommendation to incentivize intelligent speed adaptation systems has yet to win broader federal support and could face resistance from American drivers accustomed to speed limits being enforced by police rather than police. of the vehicle itself.
The NTSB’s recommendations, which cannot be implemented without adoption by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, specifically include requiring all new vehicles to have “passive vehicle-integrated alcohol impairment detection systems, advanced driver monitoring or a combination of the two that would be capable of preventing or limiting the operation of the vehicle if it detects that the driver is impaired by alcohol.
Reiterating a recommendation made in 2017, the NTSB also suggested that the NHTSA encourage “vehicle manufacturers and consumers to adopt intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) systems that would prevent speed-related crashes.”
Intelligent cruise control systems can range from a warning system that issues visual or audible alerts when a driver is accelerating to a system that electronically limits a vehicle’s speed. The NTSB did not specify what type of system should be adopted.
An investigation into a crash in California that killed nine people, including seven children, on New Year’s Day 2021 led to Tuesday’s recommendations, according to the NTSB. Investigators, the agency said, “found that the driver of the SUV (involved in the accident) had a high level of alcohol intoxication and was driving at an excessive speed.”
NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said Tuesday that the technologies “can prevent the tens of thousands of deaths from drunk driving and speeding-related accidents that we see in the US each year.” ”.
Thirty-two people die every day from alcohol-related crashes, more than 11,000 each year, according to the NHTSA. It reported that deaths increased 5% in 2021.
There are a number of technologies aimed at preventing drunk driving that are being evaluated by the Department of Transportation, according to the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The department was given three years to craft a requirement that new vehicles have “advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology” as part of the infrastructure bill, which was passed with bipartisan support on last year.
The NHTSA said in a statement Monday that it “has begun work to meet the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act’s requirement to develop standards for advanced vehicle driving technology.”
Such technologies include cameras and sensors outside a vehicle that monitor driving performance, cameras and sensors inside a vehicle that monitor a driver’s head and eyes, and alcohol sensors to determine if a driver is intoxicated and subsequently prevent the vehicle from crashing. move.
The prospective regulation has raised privacy concerns and questions about whether systems would falsely classify certain people, such as those with disabilities, as intoxicated.
Intelligent cruise control systems have gained some traction in the European market, where they will be mandatory in all new cars sold there from July 2024. New cars will emit a “cascading acoustic warning”, a “warning cascading vibration” haptic feedback via the acceleration pedal” or a “speed control function”, according to the European Commission. A driver can override the ISA system, the commission says.
New York City is also piloting a fleet of urban vehicles with an ISA system. The city announced in August that 50 vehicles operated by city employees will have systems that set a maximum speed for the vehicle and “will also be adaptive based on the local speed limit.” The system has an active mode, which will automatically slow a vehicle, and a passive mode, which will alert the driver when accelerating.
The vehicles will be retrofitted and installed in vehicles in a variety of city departments, and will also be tested in 14 new all-electric Ford Mach Es.
This story has been updated with comments from NHTSA.