It's Time for Automakers to Make Automatic Crash Notification a Standard Safety Feature

It's Time for Automakers to Make Automatic Crash Notification a Standard Safety Feature

Photo: Chevrolet

Automatic crash notification is far from new technology. General Motors introduced OnStar in the mid-1990s, and since then, it’s spread to pretty much every new car on the market. According to Consumer Reports, 13 automakers include it on some of the cars they sell here in the U.S. for free, while seven others include a trial period of at least five years. But when the trial period runs out, you either have to pay for a monthly subscription or lose what could be a valuable safety feature.

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As Consumer Reports points out, a 2019 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that automatic crash notification could save at least 700 lives a year. And CR has been pushing for automakers to get rid of subscription fees to keep ACN active. “Automatic crash notification can save lives. It should come standard on all new cars, and remain active—and free—regardless of what happens with subscriptions for other connected services,” William Wallace, CR’s associate director of safety policy, said in a statement.

Others agree. Dr. Eileen Bulger, a professor of surgery at University of Washington Medicine has studied ACN impact survival rates after crashes and presented the results to the NHTSA. “All cars should be required to have this feature, and nobody should pay for it,” she told CR. “It’s a safety feature.”

Bulger pointed to one example of a woman she treated whose car crashed down a ravine and wasn’t found until eight days later. “She survived because she didn’t have life-threatening injuries, but she was critically dehydrated and had significant complications associated with that,” Bulger told CR. “Automatic crash notification would have immediately said, ‘This car is off the road, here’s where it is, here’s the exact location,’ and somebody would have gone to investigate it.”

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One notable exception to automakers that charge a subscription fee to keep ACN active is Hyundai, which recently announced that all 2024 models will come with no-cost ACN as standard. So it’s clearly possible for all other automakers to do the same thing. They just haven’t done it yet. But we agree with CR. It’s past time for automakers to do away with subscription fees and make ACN standard across the board.