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Speeches and Presentations

Roadmap for Safer Vehicles 2030 – A Global Perspective Panel

Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA Administrator | Opening Remarks

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 |

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, and thank you, Carla, for that introduction. On behalf of NHTSA, congratulations on Australasian NCAP’s 30th anniversary. Your work ensures safer vehicles for Australians and New Zealanders, providing them the resources they need to select the vehicle that’s best for their families. Australasian NCAP’s work supporting NCAP programs in Southeast Asia and Latin America is a true example of the spirit of cooperation of Global NCAP.

NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation have a long history of cooperation and collaboration with the United Nations and the World Health Organization to address traffic safety issues. And we will continue that important relationship. We are proud of the work at the U.N. to address impaired driving, driver education, automated driving systems, and general vehicle safety regulations through WP.1 and WP.29. 

We believe this spirit of cooperation is essential, as we can share best practices, research, and data. No country is an island in the fight to save lives – we can and should work together.

I’m pleased to be here today as NHTSA’s recently confirmed Administrator – the first since 2017. I will draw upon decades of experience in public service to help make our transportation system safer for every American, no matter if they drive, walk, bike, ride or roll. I am honored to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead this vital agency as we improve roadway safety, foster innovation, advance transportation equity, and address climate change.

Under the leadership of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, our work at NHTSA focuses on making our vehicles and roads safer for everyone. Safety is the foundation of everything we do and is at the heart of every decision we make.

We are committed to improving safety for all road users – not just drivers and passengers, but pedestrians, cyclists, children, motorcyclists, older Americans, and people with disabilities. 

Our work is urgent because of what we see on our nation’s roadways. Tens of thousands of traffic fatalities make up about 95 percent of all transportation-related deaths in this country, which is unacceptable.

And when we speak of traffic fatalities, we always remember: These are people, not statistics. They are our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Every life is precious. 

That’s why we must change a culture that accepts the loss of tens of thousands of people in traffic crashes as inevitable. And the increases in traffic fatalities we saw in this country during the pandemic cannot, and must not, become the new normal.

Changing this culture – and saving lives – will require a transformational and collaborative approach to safety.

We can do this by embracing the safe system approach. This approach puts people first – where the system serves the needs of its users, not the other way around. NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are adopting the safe system approach, as are state and local governments across the country. The safe system approach incorporates the 5 Es: equity, engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency medical services. 

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to look at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recently announced National Roadway Safety Strategy. The report offers more on implementing the safe system approach and identifies action items for everyone working to save lives on the road. 

NHTSA is committed to working with our international partners: governments, NGOs, industry, and other stakeholders to achieve the U.N. objective of reducing fatalities by 50 percent by 2030. We can all work to make our transportation system safe for all users. 

The New Car Assessment Program is an important component of improving the crashworthiness and safety of new cars, trucks, and SUVs. NHTSA launched the world’s first NCAP program when it tested the occupant protection capabilities of new cars in 1978 with frontal barrier crash tests. And in 1983, we began crash testing light trucks.

Since its formation, NCAP has provided families with unbiased information on the safety of vehicles. NCAP has also leveraged market forces to encourage manufacturers to design higher levels of safety into their vehicles. NCAP 5-Star Safety Ratings appear regularly in television and print ads for new vehicles, and no manufacturer wants to receive a low star rating.

The NCAP program NHTSA pioneered is now replicated around the world, ensuring that consumers now have ready access to information about vehicle safety. This information is especially critical when we see the number of zero- and one-star NCAP crash tests in emerging programs – families in the market for a new or used car deserve to have information about the relative safety of those vehicles. And we all hope that low ratings – especially zero- or one-star ratings – will spur manufacturers to recall vehicles and make critical safety improvements in new models.

As you may have heard, NHTSA is embarking on upgrades to our NCAP program to account for new technologies, improve consumer education, and plan for the program’s future.

In March, we published our request for comment on our proposal. NHTSA proposed adding four additional advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, technologies: lane keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and blind spot intervention. 

Sometimes we’re asked why it takes so long to write a new rule or issue a new regulation. NHTSA is required to base all of our decisions on sound science, data, and research. Before a technology can be considered for inclusion in NCAP, it has to meet all four of our established criteria:

Does the update address a safety need?

Do designs exist for the update?

Does the update have the potential to improve safety?

And finally, do we have a test procedure to assess its performance objectively?

When combined, the four ADAS technologies we propose adding to NCAP address a significant proportion of all crashes, fatalities, and injuries. And they meet the four questions that I just outlined. 

Adding them to our 5-Star Safety Ratings can spur their installation across the vehicle fleet, regardless of price point. Some safety features are only available in top-line trims or more expensive models. Families should not be priced out of safety! NCAP provides incentives to automakers to strengthen their vehicles’ safety features and performance and including these features in the tests will do the same.

Future NCAP plans will also include ways to measure the safety of vehicles for pedestrians and others outside the vehicle, as well as other improvements. We’ve proposed more stringent test criteria for the existing technologies currently in NCAP, as well as a plan to develop a future rating system for all crash avoidance safety technologies.

NHTSA recognizes that consumer education is important, and NCAP is a trustworthy source of information on vehicle safety for families shopping for new or used cars. Our proposal includes plans to educate consumers about safety technologies that could help people drive safer and address risky behaviors behind the wheel.

And our proposal includes the first-ever roadmap for NCAP, with our plans to update the program in phases over the next several years. 

Our comment period closed recently, and we received more than 4,000 comments from automakers, safety advocates, organizations, and the public. We are reviewing each comment and will consider them thoughtfully as we move forward.

Also, NHTSA is working on several additional rulemakings of interest to this audience, including separate rulemakings requiring automatic emergency braking in passenger vehicles and heavy trucks. Our AEB rulemaking for passenger vehicles will also include pedestrian AEB.

As I said earlier, we have to change a culture that accepts the loss of tens of thousands of people in traffic crashes as inevitable. NHTSA is committed to advancing the safety of vehicles on America’s roads and working with other countries to help reach the U.N.’s goal of reducing traffic fatalities by 50 percent by 2030. 

Thank you for the opportunity to update you on NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program and reiterate our commitment to working with the U.N. and other countries to improve traffic safety.

Thank you very much for your time and attention today.