Honorable Mark V. Rosenker
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
Prepared Remarks before ITS America Board of Directors Meeting
February 29, 2008
Good afternoon. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about the National Transportation Safety Board’s commitment to safety and our firm belief that advanced technology is a major ingredient in reducing accidents, saving lives, preventing injuries and lessening the immense emotional and monetary toll these accidents cause.
As many of you know, the Safety Board is one of the smallest U.S. federal government agencies with one of the broadest missions: improve transportation safety for the traveling public. We have a long history of advocating technological advances to compensate for human mistakes and errors in all transportation modes because it’s clear to our investigators that technology works to reduce accidents.
Many of you may also know that the Safety Board has a Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements. The current list highlights several of our recommendations that deal with researching, developing, and implementing technology.
One is positive train control that has been on the list since 1990. We are finally seeing successful pilot programs that use advanced technology to overcome human failure, and human errors account for the vast majority of train collision in this country. The newest additions to the Most Wanted List are recommendations that urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to complete rulemaking on adaptive cruise control and collision warning system for all new passenger and commercial vehicles.
I’d like to remind you that we can trace the decline in commercial accidents rates to the introduction of electronic safety devices. The aviation industry has implemented computerized flight management systems, windshear alert systems, Ground Proximity Warning Systems, and fly-by-wire electronic control of aircraft. We now see real-time weather and traffic displays in the cockpit, precision landing systems for zero visibility conditions, hybrid vision, and remotely operated drones. It is working in aviation and, hopefully, we can see similar technology successes in other modes of transportation, especially in highway transportation.
I’d like to take the rest of my time to focus on highway safety because 43,000 people a year are killed on our highways. I’m concerned, baffled, and shocked because there seems to be little outrage about the tens of thousands of people who die in roadway crashes.
Preliminary analyses show that 1,836,000 police-reported crashes, or about 48 percent of accidents, could be prevented by rear-end or run-off-the-road and lane change collision warning systems. A May 2005, NHTSA report shows the potential to reduce rear-end crashes by 10 percent. These technologies can provide a huge economic benefit. Every day, 19,000 crashes occur on American highways. These crashes incur an enormous cost: $230 billion a year — that’s nearly $800 apiece for each and every one of us.
The next frontier is preventing crashes and reducing injuries with enhanced vehicle safety technology. While the NTSB is aware of the great impact that ITS can have upon the mobility of the traveling public and the ability to reduce the number of traffic incidents, the Safety Board’s focus and emphasis remains primarily on the safety aspects of ITS.
We are seeing this technology in cars today. In fact, I believe the 21st century is all about technology. I can't think of any other set of technologies that holds as much potential for improving motor vehicle safety than collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems.
Different manufacturers make anti-lock brakes, stability control systems, collision avoidance - and these systems must work in concert to avoid a variety of road hazard. Developers of these technologies must consider how the systems will be used, where displays will be located, how much information is needed, what information has priority, when the systems should be active, and how the systems should function in an emergency.
Privacy is another issue that must be addressed for the public to accept these technologies with enthusiasm. And in the end, it is the public, and their ability and willingness to make use of these systems, that will determine how effective they will be and how soon. ITS-A can play a major role in education the public and advocating their acceptance of new technologies.
I can’t say it more clearly or more forcefully. NTSB is fully committed to ITS. It is the next step forward in reducing highway crashes and railroad collisions. We need it in all modes. We will continue to support the ITS industry and organizations.
More importantly, we will continue to urge the federal government too research, develop and implement technologies that save lives and reduce injuries.
Thank you again for this opportunity, and I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.