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A crash test dummy sits in a Michigan testing facility Bill Pugliano, Getty Images

Even crash-test dummies will get updates for driver-assist era

Auto safety and consumer advocates want the NHTSA to toughen crash-testing standards that have fallen behind global counterparts.

(Bloomberg) — U.S. auto safety regulators next year will propose several changes to federal crash testing standards that critics say have failed to keep pace with new vehicle technologies and lag behind other nations.

The U.S. New Car Assessment Program will evaluate new technologies and upgrade testing and ratings processes — even the celebrated crash-test dummies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement last week. The agency said it will also consider technologies linked to pedestrian and cyclist safety and plans to solicit public comment on changes in 2020.

Regulators overseas and private-sector vehicle safety testers have begun to evaluate new driver-assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking. In 2016, NHTSA added automatic emergency braking to its list of “recommended” technologies, but they don’t currently factor in to NHTSA’s safety ratings formula.

The announcement comes as auto safety and consumer advocates urge the agency to toughen crash-testing standards that they say have fallen behind global counterparts and offer less value to consumers than they once did. For example, most new cars available today achieve four or five out of a possible five stars on NHTSA’s safety ratings scale, meaning consumers may struggle to differentiate the safety levels of new cars, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said in a statement.

The group and other advocates including former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook called on NHTSA to make major improvements at a press conference in Washington last week.

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