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Is sophisticated technology really making cars safer?

We often hear about the latest safety technologies in vehicles. But amid record-setting recalls and cyber security threats, many consumers have legitimate questions regarding whether technology is really helping vehicle manufacturers improve safety.

Despite advancing technology, cars remain prone to defects

Unfortunately, changing technology has led to many vehicles manufactured in the U.S. and elsewhere to become available to consumers despite significant and dangerous defects. Last year, for example, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration came under fire for failing to spot ignition defect switches in some General Motors vehicles that eventually caused 124 deaths.

These manufacturing defects are not limited to older models. Even high-end, 2016 models suffer from manufacturing and design defects. For example, vehicles from BMW and Subaru have been recalled for driveshaft issues. Volkswagen has issued significant recalls for its emission standards. Ford recently recalled hundreds of thousands of Fusions for a critical safety risk involving its canister fuel purge valve.

Vehicles of almost any make and model are now susceptible to manufacturing defects and recalls. Major tire brands, child car safety seats, and other equipment have been recalled in 2015.

With the sheer volume of recalled vehicles and equipment, which numbers in the millions, what can worried consumers do?

NHTSA hoping to get voluntary compliance from automakers

The NHTSA is hoping to get voluntary compliance from automakers with recall reforms and hopes to announce a deal by mid-January of 2016. On December 1, 2015, administrators from the NHTSA and executives at 15 major car manufacturers met to discuss the increasing problem with recalls and cyber security threats.

The NHTSA has asked car companies to come up with industry-wide safety standards that could reduce the number of recalls and improve cyber security for all vehicles. It remains to be seen what these voluntary safety measures will be.

Legal options available

In the meanwhile, people who have been injured because of an auto defect do have legal options available to hold manufacturers and distributors accountable for putting an unsafe product on the market. A products liability claim can help pay for the costs of recovery and make it cost-ineffective for manufacturers to continue to put dangerous products on the market.

Future vehicle safety standards remain in doubt

A common, shared dream of consumers and automakers is to have safe, smart cars that can prevent accidents, or even be self-driving. Today, unfortunately, that technology has not yet arrived. When that day will come is not yet clear.

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