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May 26 -- This notice requests comment on a proposal to update the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to provide consumers with information about crashworthiness pedestrian protection of new vehicles. The proposed updates to NCAP would provide valuable safety information to consumers about the ability of vehicles to protect pedestrians and could incentivize vehicle manufacturers to produce vehicles that provide better protection for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians. In addition, this proposal addresses several mandates set forth in section 24213 of the November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Comments should be submitted no later than July 25, 2023.

NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) provides comparative information on the safety performance of new vehicles and availability of new vehicle safety features to assist consumers with vehicle purchasing decisions and to encourage safety improvements. NCAP is one of several programs that NHTSA uses to fulfill its mission of reducing the number of fatalities, injuries, and economic losses that occur on United States (U.S.) roadways. This RFC focuses on the inclusion of the first ever pedestrian protection program in U.S. NCAP.

While passenger vehicle occupant fatalities decreased from 32,225 in 2000 to 23,824 in 2020, during that same timeframe, pedestrian fatalities increased by 37 percent, from 4,739 in 2000 to 6,516 in 2020. These 6,516 pedestrian deaths in 2020 represent 17 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. In contrast, pedestrian injuries (54,769) were less than 3 percent of all motor vehicle occupant injuries (2,093,246) in 2020. Although vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes do not occur as frequently as vehicle-to-vehicle crashes, they are especially deadly. In fact, a NHTSA study that grouped various pre-crash scenarios into nine distinct pre-crash scenario groups, including a group involving light vehicle crashes with a pedestrian, estimated that on an annual average, 53 of every 1,000 vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes is a fatal crash. This fatality statistic in the light vehicle-pedestrian pre-crash scenario group is significantly greater than any of the other eight pre-crash scenario groups in the study.

Historically, features rated or otherwise included in NCAP have focused largely on the protection of occupants in motor vehicles. However, NHTSA has also recognized the importance of protecting vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, from injury and death due to motor vehicle crashes. . . .

In this RFC, NHTSA is proposing to add crashworthiness pedestrian protection to NCAP to spur vehicle technologies that help address the rising number of fatalities and injuries that involve pedestrians. . . .

While the subject of this RFC also covers pedestrian protection, it should be viewed as a new initiative, not an extension of the December 2015 Notice. . . .

This proposal is part of the Agency's multi-faceted effort to encourage pedestrian safety improvements in vehicles by providing comprehensive vehicle safety information to consumers on (1) whether a vehicle can offer better protection to pedestrians in the event of a collision with a pedestrian and (2) whether a vehicle can prevent a collision with a pedestrian or reduce the severity of injuries to a pedestrian when equipped with advanced driver assistance systems such as pedestrian automatic emergency braking. The latter was proposed to be added to NCAP in the March 2022 RFC. In addition, NHTSA is working to issue a proposal mandating such systems in all new light vehicles. As stated in the Department of Transportation's National Roadway Safety Strategy, proposals to update NCAP are expected to emphasize safety features that protect people both inside and outside of the vehicle, and may include consideration of pedestrian protection systems, better understanding of impacts to pedestrians (e.g., specific considerations for children), and automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance to benefit bicyclists and pedestrians. The Agency is also pursuing a rulemaking to set minimum safety standards for pedestrian protection.

From a testing perspective, NHTSA still plans to align with, to the extent feasible, the Euro NCAP test procedures and evaluation criteria for pedestrian protection for the Agency's new crashworthiness pedestrian protection testing program. However, in order to accelerate the adoption of pedestrian protection features into new vehicles, NHTSA is not proposing changes to the 5-star ratings system at this time. As discussed in the notice that was published on March 9, 2022, NHTSA plans for multiple updates to NCAP in the next several years—as part of the Agency's short-term roadmap that will include various enhanced tools and techniques (advanced dummies, tests, rating systems, etc.) in both crashworthiness and crash avoidance programs. Until NHTSA completes a rulemaking to update the Monroney label, NHTSA plans to introduce the new crashworthiness pedestrian safety program in NCAP by highlighting on the NHTSA website new vehicles that meet NHTSA's performance test criteria for providing better pedestrian protection in the event of a collision with a pedestrian. NHTSA proposes using a pass/fail scoring system, described below, and will consider including pedestrian protection in the rating system when it updates the Monroney label.

The testing methodology proposed in this notice is very similar to that of Euro NCAP. . . . However, NHTSA plans to use a different scoring distribution than the one used in Euro NCAP. Specifically, for this proposal, the weightings are as follows . . . Also, NHTSA is proposing to award credit for pedestrian protection safety to vehicles that score 60 percent (21.6 out of 36.0 points) or above. Furthermore, NHTSA is proposing to implement this new program as a self-reporting program in which (1) vehicle manufacturers provide data to the Agency, (2) NHTSA reviews the data and awards credit as appropriate, and (3) NHTSA performs verification tests on certain new model year vehicles each year to ensure they meet the performance levels indicated by the vehicle manufacturer. A similar self-reporting and verification testing approach is currently used for evaluating certain ADAS technologies in NCAP.

This RFC fulfills portions of the requirements in Section 24213(b) of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, enacted as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and signed on November 15, 2021, which require that the Agency “publish a notice, for purposes of public review and comment, to establish a means for providing to consumers information relating to pedestrian, bicyclist, or other vulnerable road user safety technologies.” 

Furthermore, NHTSA is committed to ensuring safety is equitable for all pedestrians, regardless of gender. The proposed test requirements cover the entire front end of the vehicle—the bumper, the grille, the hood leading edge, the hood, and the windshield—encompassing a large area causing injury to child and adult pedestrians in the real world. NHTSA believes that by covering such a large area, crash protection will be afforded to both male and female pedestrians of varying stature. Additionally, testing is conducted using two different headforms representing average child to adult heads.

The remainder of this notice outlines NHTSA's proposal in detail, including the self-reporting requirements and the process of conducting verification testing. Also, this notice describes in detail deviations from the Euro NCAP test procedures and requests public comment on the overall proposal as well as specific details of the proposal. . . .
Economic Analysis: The changes to NCAP proposed in this RFC would ultimately enable a rating system that improves consumer awareness of crashworthiness pedestrian protection systems and the improvements to safety that stem from those systems and encourage manufacturers to accelerate their adoption. The accelerated adoption of pedestrian protection systems would drive any economic and societal impacts that result from these changes and are thus the focus of this discussion of economic analysis. Hence, the Agency has considered the potential economic effects for pedestrian protection systems proposed for inclusion in NCAP and the potential benefit of eventually developing a new rating system that would include this information.

Crashworthiness pedestrian protection systems are unique because the safety improvements are attributable to improved pedestrian protection, as opposed to improvements in occupant protection that the other crashworthiness components in NCAP provide. Unlike advanced driver assistance systems, their effectiveness is the reduction of pedestrian injury and prevention of pedestrian fatalities when a crash between a motor vehicle and pedestrian does occur. This effectiveness is typically measured by using a combination of real-world statistical data, laboratory testing, and Agency expertise.

As discussed in detail in this notice, crashes between pedestrians and motor vehicles present significant safety issues and NHTSA is particularly concerned about the steady rise in pedestrian fatalities over the last several years. The data from countries that prioritize crashworthiness pedestrian protection systems, via both regulation and other consumer information programs, indicate that these systems are effective in reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities. BASt in Germany found a correlation between Euro NCAP pedestrian protection scores and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The Swedish Transport Administration also found that vehicles that score better in the Euro NCAP pedestrian crashworthiness tests tended to reduce injury in actual crashes. Although these studies have been limited to certain geographic areas, which may not represent the entire U.S. fleet, they do illustrate how these systems can provide safety benefits. Thus, although the Agency does not have sufficient data to determine the monetized safety impacts resulting from these systems in a way similar to that frequently done for mandated technologies—when compared to the future without the proposed update to NCAP, NHTSA expects that these changes would likely have substantial positive safety effects by promoting earlier and more widespread deployment of crashworthiness pedestrian protection systems.

NCAP also helps address the issue of asymmetric information (i.e., when one party in a transaction is in possession of more information than the other), which can be considered a market failure. Regarding consumer information, the introduction of a potential new component to the NCAP rating system is anticipated to provide consumers additional vehicle safety information regarding the safety of vulnerable road users to help them make more informed purchasing decisions by presenting the relative safety benefits of systems designed to protect not only occupants inside the vehicle but also persons outside the vehicle. While NHTSA knows that consumers value information about the protection of vehicle occupants when making purchasing decisions, the Agency believes that as a society, most consumers are also interested in protecting people that share their roads. Hence, there is an unquantifiable value to consumers and to the society as a whole for the Agency to provide accurate and comparable vehicle safety information about protecting all lives. At this time, the Agency does not have sufficient data, such as unit cost and information on how soon the full adoption of pedestrian protections systems would be reached, to predict the net increase in cost to consumers with a high degree of certainty.

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-11201 [45 pages]

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