U.S. Considers Overhauling Auto Safety Crash Test Ratings

The U.S. Transportation Department will today propose a remake of its influential crash-test ratings system to incorporate new technology designed to avoid collisions.

Regulators will add a crash-avoidance element to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s star ratings system as well as an angled frontal collision test, according to two people familiar with the proposal who requested anonymity. The agency will unveil its proposal at a news conference in Washington Tuesday.

Regulators are also looking at ways to give automakers credit for designs that avoid potentially fatal collisions with pedestrians and mitigate severity of injuries if people are hit. They’d also like to add new crash-test dummies that can more accurately measure potential injuries in car crashes.

The changes will be part of a new rulemaking in which the agency will ask industry and safety groups for reaction to the proposed enhancements to the star-rating program.

The New Car Assessment Program has been around since the 1970s, when the regulator graded how well cars performed in a frontal crash test on a one-to-five star scale. Over the years, NHTSA has added a side-impact test and a rollover stability rating. Last year, the agency added advanced braking systems to the ratings.

The agency also maintains a list of recommended auto safety technologies, such as back-up cameras and warning systems that alerts a driver when their vehicle has moved out of its lane.