The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a sweeping auto-safety bill that would require installation of brake-override systems and event-data recorders. This bill comes in the wake of the Toyota unintended acceleration crisis, and much pressure from the public to hold automakers more accountable for safety. Regulators would also have to consider industry-wide standards for foot-pedal placement, electronic systems, push-button ignition systems, and transmission configuration. The NHTSA would be the ones to devise a timetable by which the manufacturers would have to be in compliance.
An earlier version of the bill required that black boxes record crash data for 75 seconds before a crash, and eliminated the cap on penalties to automakers. Those provisions have been dropped; the NHTSA will now determine an appropriate recording window, and the cap has been set at $200 million.
One other major point of the House bill is the expansion authority and increase in funding to the NHTSA, and that auto-safety information would be more transparent to consumers. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate; one major difference however, is that the Senate bill would eliminate the cap on fines.
NHTSA funding will be increased through an automaker fee of $9 per vehicle, and by doubling federal funding to $280 million over three years. There will also be a process in place for the Transportation Department to publicly order recalls in certain situations, and impose a ban on federal employees leaving the Transportation Department to go work for automakers immediately afterwards.
– By: Stephen Calogera