• In addition to fixing bridges and roads, the 1039-page infrastructure bill about to be signed by President Biden addresses safety issues for future vehicles.
  • Automakers may be asked to make future car hoods and bumpers more protective, to incorporate DUI-preventing technology, and to make active-safety tech and features such as rear-seat alerts and rollaway protection into standard features.
  • Perhaps best of all, we may soon be getting European-style adaptive driving beam headlights.

    H.R.3684, better known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is no longer just a bill sitting on Capitol Hill. It's now a bill waiting for the president to sign it into law, which President Biden is expected to do on Monday.

    While the 1039-page brick of legislation includes a broad range of investments related to, well, infrastructure and jobs, it also incorporates a number of provisions for standardizing vehicle safety features. The bill even includes safety stipulations for the likes of commercial trucks and limousines—but for now, let's focus specifically on how the legislation may affect the vehicles individuals buy or lease for private use.

    us politics biden infrastructure

    Biden talks infrastructure at a meeting with governors and mayors in August.

    MANDEL NGANGetty Images

    Active Safety in the Front End

    Change may come to cars' hoods and bumpers. Within two years of its passage, the Act requires the Secretary of Transportation to issue a notice of potential updates to these specific automotive body parts. The goal? To better incorporate active-safety features within these two exterior pieces, as well as to improve protection for the likes of pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a collision with a car.

    The Secretary of Transportation, currently Pete Buttigieg, then needs to submit an associated report notice to Congress within the same two-year period. The information gleaned from both the notice and report may ultimately end with the U.S. adopting new hood and bumper standards that not only improve vehicle safety but may also affect vehicle design.

    After all, look at how the European Union's pedestrian impact standards affected the styling of vehicles, now that they're built to meet similar regulations. The standards there aim to lessen the chance of a pedestrian or other vulnerable road user suffering a traumatic head injury by increasing the space between the bottom of a car's hood and the highest part of any hard part below it (this includes the likes of the engine, the wiper motor, and more). The rules, which went into effect in the early part of the prior decade, ultimately resulted in automakers raising the hoodlines of the vehicles they intended to sell in EU countries. Some manufacturers came up with methods—such as hoods that automatically raise in the event of an accident—of meeting regulatory requirements while maintaining a lower hoodline.

    Similarly, Congress includes provisions within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure connected vehicle systems take pedestrians and bicyclists into account during the deployment of such features. It's possible that this portion of the bill will impact the way some automakers roll out V2X communication technology in their future products.

    Stopping DUIs before They Happen

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 28 people die each day in the United States in a drunk-driving incident. The government hopes it can curb this by requiring vehicles manufactured after a certain date to come fitted with technology to prevent drunk and impaired driving. This is to take effect within three years of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's passage.

    That said, there's a good amount of leeway built into this time frame. The bill even includes language that lays out what the Secretary of Transportation must do in the event a finalized rule for standardizing such technology fails to enter the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) a full 10 years after the date of the Act's passage.

    Adaptive Driving Beam Headlights Are Coming to America!

    Americans are left to kick dust while other markets, including Europe, are getting to drive cars equipped with adaptive driving beam headlights. Fortunately, this is set to soon come to an end, as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gives the Secretary of Transportation a maximum of two years after its passage to amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 108 (FMVSS 108) and allow automakers to integrate this trick headlight technology on vehicles they ship to our shores.

    Additionally, the bill includes provisions to establish a performance-based standard for headlamps. We presume this means that NHTSA will soon adopt a rating system for headlight performance, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety already does.

    Standard FCW, AEB, LDW, and LKA

    Forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist systems are coming to your future car—like it or not. When, however, is still up for debate, as the Act gives the Secretary of Transportation the power to determine a date to mandate this technology.

    Standard Rear-Seat Reminder

    Rear-seat reminders, which alert the driver of a possible rear-seat occupant such as a child or pet when they prepare to exit the vehicle, are becoming more common in today's vehicles. Nevertheless, this technology is not universally imposed.

    This soon may change, though, as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gives the Secretary of Transportation up to two years after the Act's passage to issue a ruling to require all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or less to come equipped with such a system.

    Additionally, the bill includes provisions for the Secretary of Transportation to make updates to vehicle seat safety standards within two years of the Act's passage. What, if any, changes come about remain to be seen.

    Automatic Engine Shutoff

    Although the internal-combustion engine's days seem numbered (at least in passenger cars), its likely demise is still some years away. In order to prevent such power sources from (purposefully or inadvertently) killing individuals by way of carbon monoxide poisoning, the government wants to mandate automatic engine-shutoff systems in new vehicles with ICE powertrains. Such a system would automatically shut off the engine after a certain period of nonstop idling. The specific time period may vary between various vehicles depending on the amount of carbon monoxide each emits, per the Act. Unlike today's automatic stop-start systems, which aim to save fuel economy by starting and stopping the car in gear, this setup will presumably work when the car is in park.

    Given the current chip shortage, we wager the Secretary of Transportation will work with automakers to phase in or even delay implementing this feature until the supply of microchips catches up to demand. Once the government formally issues this mandate, though, it plans to enforce the addition of this feature on September 1 of the following calendar year.

    Stop, Drop, and (Don’t) Roll

    The NHTSA reports that unattended rollaway vehicles killed 142 individuals and injured 2000 others in 2015. To prevent such accidents, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gives the Secretary of Transportation a year from its passage to conduct a study to determine the potential benefits and consequences of mandating technology that prevents vehicles with automatic transmissions and keyless-ignition systems from inadvertently rolling away.

    Only time will tell if anything comes of this study. That said, a number of vehicles already automatically engage park if the driver's door opens with the gear selector in neutral, reverse, or drive as a way of preventing an unattended rollaway.

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