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A family of crash test dummies at Ford's Dearborn Development Center. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Because current safety tests are outdated, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is preparing to update its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to incorporate newer features, including some that will be in autonomous vehicles, into the safety rating program.

Why it matters: The U.S. is a global leader in AV innovation, home to 163 AV-related companies. But a flourishing market requires rigorous and consistent safety testing of all new technology, and NCAP updates will play a crucial role.

Background: Current NCAP tests have yet to catch up to what's on the market today, much less what's coming as AV technology advances.

  • Many widely available automated features, such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, aren't addressed.
  • Crash test dummies developed in the 1980s are used in the tests, but they don't have as many sensors as today's models.
  • Common scenarios — like small-overlap crashes, which involve roughly one quarter of the vehicle — are omitted.
  • They also largely overlook pedestrian safety, despite the fact that accidents involving pedestrians reached a 25-year high in 2017.

How it works: The proposed 2020 NCAP would test safety features and crash- avoidance systems in an updated set of scenarios, and clearly communicate to consumers how they factor into the overall vehicle safety rating.

  • High ratings will improve consumer confidence in partially and fully autonomous vehicles, which should create an incentive for AV companies to push for robust safety standards.

What to watch: NHTSA leadership is currently reviewing feedback submitted during the October public comment period by automakers, testing equipment suppliers, automotive safety councils and consumer advocacy groups. It is up to them to chart the path forward, ideally in time for manufacturers to conduct internal tests and implement design changes for their next model-year vehicles.

Christopher O’Connor is the CEO of Humanetics.

Go deeper

Trading platforms curb trading on high-flying Reddit stocks

Major trading platforms including Robinhood, TDAmeritrade and Interactive Brokers are restricting — or cutting off entirely — trading on high-flying stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment.

Why it matters: It limits access to the traders that have contributed to the wild Reddit-driven activity of the past few days — a phenomenon that has gripped Wall Street and the country.

2020 was the economy's worst year since 1946

Source: FRED; Billions of chained 2012 dollars; Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the last major economic report cards of the Trump era lends perspective to the historic damage caused by the pandemic, which continued to weigh on growth in the final quarter of 2020.

By the numbers: The U.S. economy grew at a 4% annualized pace in the fourth quarter, a sharp slowdown in growth compared to the prior quarter. For the full year, the economy shrank by 3.5% — the first annual contraction since the financial crisis and the worst decline since 1946.

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How GameStop exposed the market

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.