Auto Safety—Out of Reach For Average Americans?

by Bisnar Chase on January 18, 2013

According to Huffington Post, Toyota is offering a safety-options package on the new Lexus LS460 that includes an infrared beam that sends a signal to the driver when he or she approaches a possible crash danger.  Designers are hailing this early-warning system as a groundbreaking advance that can potentially save lives and reduce the number of crashes on our highways each year.

The problem?  The new Lexus has a price tag of more than $70,000. Lexus anti-crash technology

Manufacturers are once again following the pattern they used with air bags and electronic stability control.  By pushing new technology on the market prior to its requirement by regulators, car manufacturers hope to encourage customers to pay hefty prices for safety, triggering public pressure on the government to make these features requirements for all cars.

The Air Bag Phenomenon

With items such as air bags, the strategy of pushing safety worked very well.  Air bags were conclusively shown to prevent serious injury and death in a number of studies and, despite their steep initial price tag, these devices gradually came down in price as more companies became involved in their manufacturer.  Soon, the selling power of air bags overrode consumers’ initial reluctance to pay more for their vehicles.  Once government regulation stepped in, air bags were on their way to becoming standard on every new vehicle.

What Is Different Now?

However, there are several differences between the cutting-edge technology currently being explored by Toyota and other car manufacturers and innovations such as air bags.

  • New anti-crash technology is based on software that may be proprietary, meaning that it is not as easily copied by other manufacturers.  A monopoly on certain technology could mean that prices do not drop quickly enough to make the innovations available to the majority of the public.
  • Economic conditions under which anti-crash technology is being released are very different from those under which air bags are released.  At a time when many people are struggling to keep their jobs and pay their mortgages, consumers may not be willing or able to pay the high prices demanded for this new technology.  Currently, a standard anti-crash package adds at least $6,500 to the price of a car, and this technology is only offered on the most expensive models.
  • Anti-crash technology does not provide a non-replicable benefit to drivers, making them less likely to see the value of this investment.  Air bags provided a way for drivers and passengers to stay safe that seat belts simply could not duplicate.  Anti-crash technology, on the other hand, simply does a job that a driver may feel he or she can do alone—watch out for dangers on the road.

Preventing Serious Injury for Real Drivers

Naturally, drivers want to stay safe in their vehicles and keep their passengers safe.  Anti-crash technology may well develop into the type of standard technology air bags have become, but probably not until the cost of this technology allows it to be installed on “regular” cars.

Drivers and passengers who have been victims of injuries resulting from car accidents should talk to a personal injury attorney about their rights in collecting damages from responsible drivers.

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