WASHINGTON (Sept. 14) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants all new passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds to be equipped with electronic stability control systems by the 2012 model year, according to a proposed rule issued today.
There would be a three-year phase-in for all auto makers to add ESC technology to the cars and light trucks they manufacture, the proposal states. ESC systems feature computer-controlled automatic braking to help drivers maintain control of their vehicles in emergency situations.
The agency estimates that universal ESC will save between 5,300 and 10,300 lives annually, and prevent some 168,000 to 252,000 injuries per year. "Electronic stability control is the single most important advance in auto safety since the development of the seat belt," said David Champion, senior director of automotive testing for the magazine "Consumer Reports." CR has recommended making ESC mandatory since 2001, Champion added.
"It´s a great day for us," said a spokesman for Continental Automotive Systems, one of the largest ESC manufacturers in the world, though he added the company would have to study the proposal before it could make a larger statement.
ESC currently is standard or optional on nearly 190 vehicle models under 41 nameplates. According to NHTSA, this represents 29 percent of the current vehicle fleet and 57 percent of SUVs.