The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Nov. 14 launched a new initiative aimed at accelerating implementation of three new technologies that could significantly reduce deaths and injuries on the nation’s highways.

NHTSA said it hopes to work closely with the auto industry to “address the areas in highway safety where industry can fast-track existing technology for the greatest technological advances.” The agency has dubbed this project the “Significant and Seamless” initiative.

"Safety is our top priority and we can achieve remarkable progress in reducing injuries and fatalities in this era of innovation and technology," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The three technologies are:

      • Seatbelt Interlocks – This technology can prevent a vehicle from being driven if the driver and passenger are not properly buckled. Using new authority under MAP-21, NHTSA is conducting research to inform an agency decision on whether to amend its standards to allow vehicle manufacturers to voluntarily use such interlocks in satisfying certain crash test requirements. For those manufacturers that choose seatbelt interlocks, the agency would look to provide some regulatory relief from portions of the occupant protection standard. Each year, more than 3,000 people killed in crashes could have survived if they had been wearing a seatbelt. Seatbelt interlocks could increase use from the current national level of 86 percent to near 100 percent, saving thousands of lives a year, NHTSA said. To provide safety benefits, NHTSA has begun research to ensure that such interlocks would be tamper-proof and highly reliable.
      • Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS)This technology can prevent a vehicle from being driven by a drunk driver. NHTSA and the automotive industry have partnered to advance the long-term research in this advanced technology and will now begin working on the legal, public policy and consumer acceptance issues. When the technology is ready for commercialization, manufacturers could choose to offer the system as an option. The goal is to develop a system that can accurately and reliably detect when a driver is above the legal alcohol limit. The automatic system would be enabled every time the car is started, but unobtrusive so it would not pose an inconvenience to the non-intoxicated driver. According to new NHTSA data, 10,322 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2012. The majority of those people died in crashes involving drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit. Such technology could save thousands of these victims every year, NHTSA said. Below is a CNET video explaining this technology. 

    • Forward Collision Avoidance and Mitigation (FCAM)This sensor-based vehicle technology can detect a forward crash with another vehicle or pedestrian before it occurs. The system then alerts the driver to take corrective action to avoid the crash. In 2012, one-third of all police-reported crashes involved a rear-end collision with another vehicle as the first harmful event in the crash. This technology could automatically apply the brakes to assist in preventing or reducing the severity of crashes. NHTSA has been researching the reliability of this technology and developing performance measures. The agency said it has enough data to make a decision this year on how to advance market penetration into the rest of the fleet. The video below, produced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, explains this technology.

"In addition to our ongoing work with states and the automotive industry, we need a new vision, and a new blend of technological research to address some of the most significant and persistent threats to American motorists," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "We must look to technological intervention to make the next great leap, and get them poised for fleet adoption as soon as possible."