The auto industry is adopting standards to improve the safety of vehicles in side-impact crashes over the next five years, reported the Associated Press on December 4. The Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 10 automakers, plans to announce the commitment Thursday. The standards are voluntary, but automakers are expected to implement them by 2009. Alliance spokesman Eron Shosteck said Tuesday that automakers adopted a set of performance standards that can be met through a variety of safety devices, including side-impact air bags and improved door beams and bumpers. Shosteck said most automakers will be able to meet the new standards by adopting side- and head-protecting air bags. Automakers also may make design changes to the front of sport utility vehicles so there is a lesser height difference in collisions with passenger cars. The Alliance and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is funded by insurers, promised to develop the voluntary standards in February in a letter to Dr. Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some safety groups have argued against voluntary standards, saying they hold no weight because automakers can choose not to adopt them. Runge has said voluntary standards can bring safety enhancements to the market more quickly, since the government's regulatory process can require years. Shosteck said the Alliance planned to send the automakers' offer to Runge on Tuesday.