Aviation's Technology Breakthroughs Coming to Highways: NTSB

Tbe National Transportation Safety Board's chairman, Mark Rosenker, predicts technology lessons learned in aviation can be applied to improve the safety of America's highway system, where 90 percent of all transportation fatalities occur. Rosenker spoke Wednesday night at the Northwestern University Transportation Center.

"We have reached some practical limits in combating the physical forces involved in crashes," Rosenker said. "It is time to move beyond crash mitigation and enter a new era where technology will help prevent accidents."

Rosenker cited electronic safety devices, such as radio navigation aids and anti-collision devices, that have made commercial aviation the safest mode of transportation. "I believe new technologies may enable us to repeat those successes in highway travel," he said, adding he sees three distinct milestones along the road to highway safety: technology for crash avoidance; telematics, which are wireless, location-based services for vehicles and drivers; and command and control, meaning crash warning systems and vehicle control systems. "I am confident that highway automation will greatly improve safety," Rosenker said. "But I am not naive about what it will take to see these benefits." In the end, he said, "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."

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