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NTSB to car makers: we want collision avoidance systems sooner

In the ongoing and protracted game of tug of war that is vigorously being played between auto manufacturers and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, the latter has just given a mighty yank.

And it is now insisting that vehicle makers take material steps toward the NTSB side of the line rather than continuing to resist its efforts to win a longstanding battle.

The focal point of all the back-and-forth tugging is this: the implementation of onboard technology in vehicles -- both passenger conveyances and commercial trucks -- that safety gurus say will appreciably curb rear-end collisions and resulting injuries.

The need for implementation of collision avoidance systems is truly urgent, states the NTSB, with continued delays being flatly unacceptable. The safety agency recently cited statistics showing that about 1,700 people die annually across the country in rear-end crashes. Moreover, non-fatal yet serious outcomes are commonplace in California and nationally, with approximately half a million drivers and passengers suffering injuries of some sort each year in struck-from-behind accidents.

Not only does the NTSB want manufacturers to speed up their game on implementing such technology in cars and trucks; it also wants crash-avoidance systems included as standard equipment.

"You don't pay extra for your seat belt," says NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart, "and you shouldn't have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether."

Unsurprisingly, that sentiment is less than popular with automakers, which cite the costs related to the research and development of the systems and urge that they be considered optional equipment for buyers.

Hart says that "inaction" plagues the industry, being fueled by assertions for auto executives that they must continue to discover and refine next-stage technologies before a product can be delivered.

The NTSB says that that vehicle makers and safety officials must not let "perfection become the enemy of the good." The agency wants the warning systems implemented as soon as possible, and might push the issue by having the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration begin ranking new vehicles on their ability to avoid accidents in the NHTSA's 5-star rating system that influences consumers in their buying decisions.

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