The US government’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), also known as the five-star safety rating, is getting a major update. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Thursday a set of new proposals for the federal program aimed at curbing the surge in pedestrian deaths.

For the first time, NHTSA will consider the inclusion of advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS — sorry for all the acronyms!) features, like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and lane-keep assistance. These ADAS features, which are quickly becoming standard in most vehicles today, could become essential criteria for a five-star safety rating from the government.

Traditionally, NHTSA assigns safety ratings to new cars and trucks by putting a couple of crash test dummies inside the vehicle and ramming it into a wall at high speed. But this system really only assesses the risks posed to automobile occupants — and not the danger posed to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.

NHTSA acknowledges that this is no longer a tenable system. “For the first time ever, NCAP includes technology recommendations not only for drivers and passengers but for road users outside the vehicle, like pedestrians,” Steven Cliff, deputy administrator at NHTSA, said in a statement.

The European Union’s version of the NCAP is different and obviously better. Vehicles receive a five-star review only if…



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