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Old 08-09-2002, 07:07   #1 (permalink)
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Ford exec says U.S. moving too fast on air bags

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug 8 Reuters reports that U.S. safety regulators may be pushing too hard for systems in new vehicles that adjust air bag deployments in a crash based on a passenger's size and position, Ford Motor Co.'s safety chief said on Thursday.

Sue Cischke, Ford's vice president of environmental and safety engineering, said "occupant protection" technology due to be introduced by 2003 had not been thoroughly proven to work as designed, and could conflict with the advice automakers have given for years to parents about where to place small children in cars.

"We're concerned about moving so quickly to incorporate technology into millions of vehicles in such a short amount of time," Cischke said during the auto industry's Management Briefing Seminars in northern Michigan. "We'd like to be able to go a little bit slower, and understand the real-world implications."

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required that automakers introduce systems that can tell whether an adult, a child or an infant in a carrier is in the front passenger seat of a vehicle and decide whether to set off the air bag in a collision. The systems, which would also decide how air bags should be deployed depending on an individual's weight and body position, would be phased in over a number of years, and would be standard by 2008.

Although credited with saving nearly 7,000 lives, air bags have also been blamed for 175 deaths, mostly children and small women in relatively slow-speed crashes.

Cischke said the sensors needed to make the systems have not been proven to work for the typical 15-year lifespan of a vehicle. She also said the systems contradicted what Ford and other automakers have told parents for years about putting small children in the back seat, away from air bags.

"My fear is that we've done so much in the industry to convince parents to put kids in the back seat, and now we're going to tell them we've got this new, high-tech stuff and we're able to detect them sitting there," she said. "It's really the wrong message."

Cischke said Ford had talked to NHTSA about stretching the rollout over a greater time period.
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