Should Safety Technology be Standard, Regardless of Trim?

Safety technology – a necessity or a luxury? While safety technology is susceptible to flaws because of its recent introduction, it is certainly better to have new vehicles equipped with it than not. 

 

Blind spot-awareness, lane-departure warning systems, cameras, automatic emergency braking, and other in-vehicle safety features have helped drivers be more aware of the roads and fellow drivers. Also, in some cases, it makes them better drivers altogether. As technology continues to improve, vehicles will be safer, better protecting the driver and any passengers. So why aren’t OEMs installing these systems as a standard option in all models?

 

A recent article in Automotive News points out a flaw in the installation of this technology. Many advanced safety features are not standard, but, rather, are add-ons or only available in expensive packages that can cost upwards of $12,000 on top of the vehicle price. This can easily put those safety features out of reach for the average consumer, regardless of how desirable they may be. The article states that these safety features come standard on only three of the fifteen top-selling models in the United States.

 

Not too long ago, manufacturers conformed to standard safety features largely mandated by the US government. Many car salespeople used these features when doing walkarounds to sell the vehicle. And that was a good thing. However, over time, it turned out that the features and benefits, if available on all models, didn’t offer much in the way of differentiation but added to the vehicle’s production cost. But safety was in demand by consumers. It still is. The glaring difference in this modern-day version of safety is that it is significantly more expensive -- at a cost that OEMs cannot simply waive, and consumers can't easily absorb.

 

In my opinion, the more vehicles we can get on the roads with advanced safety technology, the better. I am not sure that technology needs to be “packaged” in with sunroofs and sound systems. Over time, perhaps the costs will come down. As was the case with passenger-side airbags, shatter-resistant windshields, and three-point seatbelts, the advancements became standard features.   

 

Safety all starts with the vehicle itself – the manufacturing quality as well as safety features. The higher the quality and dependability, the safer the vehicle is for the consumer. Will there be hiccups and recalls along the way? Yes, as technology is constantly changing and developing.  Especially with software and electronics, we can expect bugs, patches, and updates – tomorrow’s vehicle technologies are tomorrow’s recalls. But recalls have never stopped us from innovation nor widespread inclusion. 

 

So, here is the question, can vehicles be mass-produced with advanced safety features that already exist to improve the safety of the roads for everyone, not just those that can afford an extra $150+ per month to get them? Regardless of if consumers perceive the value of these safety technologies or are attracted to them (such as a sunroof packaged into the deal), safety for all drivers on the road should take precedence.

 

Is it right to require that consumers pay tens of thousands of dollars extra to have their vehicles equipped with the latest safety technology? Is there a better solution? What do you think?

 

All vehicles should be safe, especially when new. Nothing is perfect but the safer to begin with, the safer it will always be. Stay safe out there!

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