Eighteen major automakers announced recently that they will join together with the U.S. government in a voluntary program to improve vehicle safety, according to a Reuters article. The program will tackle problems like improving cyber security for onboard computers in vehicles and collecting better early warning data of potential problems. The program’s plan is to use a similar successful program in the aviation industry as a model for cooperation.
One of the plan’s major goals is to prevent safety problems rather than cracking down on automakers after safety issues occur. If safety can be improved to reduce the number of hidden defects that cause serious accidents and injuries, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) believes that the need for recalls and lawsuits over liability will likewise decrease.
Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, celebrated the negotiation, saying: “We have finalized a historic agreement on a set of broad-ranging actions to help make our roads safer and help avoid the sort of safety crisis that generates the wrong kind of record-setting and headlines.”
Not everyone applauded the initiative, however. Some critics, including Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), asked why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made the talks leading up to the agreement private instead of public, and why the agreement is voluntary rather than mandatory.
The senators say that this is another example of the “informal dealing” atmosphere that allows serious auto product defects to flourish in the first place. Former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook agreed, saying that the “safety of the American public will not be best protected” with a voluntary agreement between the NHTSA, which regulates automakers, and automakers who might prefer not to be regulated.
Many experts say a closer automaker-government partnership is needed, particularly after the Latest Air Bag Death Reveals Inefficiencies in U.S. Recall System.
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