The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration missed two self-imposed deadlines on deciding whether to require future “smart car” technology.

That would require next-generation vehicles to be able to talk to one another and have automatic braking systems to avoid frontal collisions.

In January 2013, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said he planned to make a decision by Dec. 31 on whether the agency would seek to require automakers to install equipment in vehicles that will allow them to communicate with each other to avoid collisions. Such technology was the subject of a year-long 3,000-vehicle test of smart-car technology in Ann Arbor. Vehicles and streets “talk” to each to reduce crashes and improve traffic congestion.

“The Department of Transportation and NHTSA have made significant progress in determining the best course of action for proceeding with additional vehicle-to-vehicle communication activities and expect to announce a decision in the coming weeks,” said the agency.

NHTSA notes that traffic congestion costs $88 billion annually, with 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel spent sitting in traffic. NHTSA says vehicle-to-vehicle communications could address about 80 % of all light-vehicle crashes.

Even if NHTSA agrees to advance the proposals, it would have to conduct a full regulation drafting process. Automakers would get at least 18 months before requirements took effect, meaning they wouldn’t be required until the 2017 model year at earliest.


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