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New safety technology should be offered in all vehicles

In our last post we reported on how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed new rules regarding engine noise on electric and hybrid vehicles. The Administration was responding to claims that the lack of noise from these vehicles created a hazard to bicyclists and pedestrians who often relied on the sound of a car coming to determine whether it was safe to cross the street.

In addition to electric engines (to improve fuel efficiency) automakers are focusing technological advances on crash avoidance (e.g. systems that will enable drivers to avoid hazards they may not see). A number of cars were on display at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that included new systems. Japanese luxury automaker Lexus unveiled its pre-collision detection system that uses small cameras and radar systems to detect when it may hit another car or animal on the road. The system can send signals to the braking and steering systems so that the driver can maintain control as he or she makes evasive maneuvers.

While this technology may (on a large scale) lead to fewer accidents, it is expensive to develop. As such, it is commonly seen only in luxury vehicles. Because of this, it takes a great deal of time for it to trickle down to mainstream cars. General Motors' OnStar system is a perfect example. Before being available on all GM models, the system was only available through Cadillac offerings.

We can only hope that new braking and steering systems (such as adaptive headlights and lane integrity warning systems) can find their way to mainstream vehicles at a quicker pace.

Source: Bloomberg.com, Auto safety advances sell at prices beyond the reach of many, January 16, 2013

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