WASHINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - U.S. safety officials on Monday called on automakers to begin installing collision avoidance systems in all new passenger and commercial vehicles, saying existing technology could save lives and avoid injuries by reducing rear-end collisions.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a 63-page report that rear-end crashes kill about 1,700 people and injure half a million annually. It said more than 80 percent of the human toll could be mitigated if vehicles were equipped with collision avoidance systems.
Collision avoidance systems use radar, lasers or cameras to detect potential crash situations and either warn the driver or apply the brakes automatically.
NTSB, whose recommendations are not binding, wants the technology included as a standard feature in new cars, trucks and buses, and criticized federal auto regulators for taking "slow or insufficient action" to require the innovation.
"Currently available forward collision avoidance technologies for passenger and commercial vehicles still show clear benefits that could reduce rear-end crash fatalities. However, more must be done to speed up deployment of these technologies in all vehicle types," the NTSB report said.
Only four out of 684 passenger vehicle models in 2014 included a complete forward collision avoidance system as a standard feature, NTSB said. The systems are often made available as options that can make a vehicle more expensive.
"You don't pay extra for your seatbelt," NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement released with the report. "And you shouldn't have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether."
NTSB, which has issued a dozen recommendations on collision avoidance over the past 20 years, called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to include performance ratings for collision avoidance systems in its safety evaluations of new automobile designs.
NHTSA welcomed NTSB's recommendations and said it has taken a number of steps to promote advanced safety technologies, including addition of automatic emergency braking as a safety performance measure for new car designs.
"We look forward to further discussions with NTSB, industry, safety advocates and others about ways to make advanced safety technologies broadly available," the U.S. auto safety regulator said. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by David Gregorio)