Airlines and Automakers Meet To Share Safety Ideas

U.S. auto safety and aviation regulators have invited automakers to a joint summit on April 22 to examine whether airline industry safety practices can be adapted to help improve safety on the road.

The event, which will be closed to the public, will be co-hosted by Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta, according to an invitation to the event obtained by Automotive News.

U.S. aviation officials and senior executives from U.S. airlines such as Delta and United will discuss data sharing and other collaborative efforts between the aviation industry and government that have contributed to an 83-percent decline in commercial airline fatalities from 1998 to 2008, according to the invitation, which was sent to representatives of automakers.

“The FAA and aviation industry have been tremendously successful reducing commercial aviation fatalities,” Rosekind said in a statement. “We are convening this cross-industry and cross-agency forum because we believe that the best practices will apply” to the auto industry.

The summit is an outgrowth of Rosekind’s push to instill a more “proactive” culture of safety in the auto industry after a series of recent high-profile safety crises. In January, NHTSA and 18 automakers agreed to adopt voluntary “proactive safety principles” aimed at rooting out safety problems before they erupt into crises and reducing traffic fatalities. Among the steps outlined in the principles was wider sharing of safety data among industry players and exploring whether aviation industry safety practices could be adapted to the auto industry.

In a U.S. House oversight panel hearing, Rosekind cited the aviation meeting as an example of the proactive safety culture he has worked to establish. He also pointed to NHTSA’s nonbinding pact with 20 automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard by 2022 and a cyber security conference being hosted by Fiat Chrysler in May.

Some lawmakers expressed skepticism about NHTSA’s use of voluntary agreements to advance safety. In the hearing, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned whether the safety principles were a “PR stunt,” saying they had “no substance” and were unenforceable. The remarks echoed concerns expressed by safety advocates.

Rosekind said the principles were not a regulation and were not intended to be enforceable.

“We’re going to use all of the enforcement and regulatory authority we have,” Rosekind said, adding that his concern is the more than 30,000 U.S. traffic deaths in 2014, and the 9 percent rise in fatalities through the first nine months of 2015. “We all know that if we keep doing the same thing, we cannot expect a different outcome.”

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