Automakers forced to drop important safety features due to shortage of critical component

As congressional leaders refuse to get out of the way and allow the free market to sort out the supply chain issues, instead quibbling over legislative responses that will most benefit them, American consumers are faced with ongoing degradation of the quality and quantity of available goods that may put lives in jeopardy.

Though many industries have bounced back since the COVID pandemic response rocked global supply chains, the semiconductor chip shortage has gone unresolved leaving auto manufacturers scrambling for solutions to maintain vehicle production. Where at first, amenities like heated seats and touchscreen displays couldn’t make the cut, Fox Business reported that some car companies have resorted to the removal of optional safety features like blind spot monitoring systems, semi-automated driver aids, and proximity alerts sensors.

“Automakers are in a tight spot when the materials aren’t available for some of the safety technology,” Jessica Cicchino, Insurance Institute of Highway Safety vice president of research, told the outlet. “It really shifts the burden on the consumers who are already having a hard time shopping for a car.”

With studies having found that driver error was a contributing factor in 94 percent of vehicular crashes, and safety systems had been shown to reduce injurious collisions by 23 percent and backup crashes by 22 percent, it is a fair assessment to make that the removal of these sensors and monitoring systems will lead to a decrease in safety for American motorists and pedestrians.

However, lawmakers’ latest move to address the shortage through the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act, looked more to be a blatant display of insider trading than an aim to solve the problem. As previously reported, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) husband Paul Pelosi had purchased 20,000 shares of Nvidia, a leading manufacturer of semiconductors, ahead of a vote on the bill that would see the largest portion of a $52 billion handout handed over to the company.

On blind spot monitoring systems, Cicchino said, “While we don’t test for them in our vehicle ratings programs, these are useful technologies to have, and we do want to see them on as many vehicles as possible.”

“Vehicles in general [are] hard to find, but then [consumers have] to do the extra step of making sure that a vehicle has the technology that you want with the fluid situation of, sometimes, the information you’re going to get is not always 100% accurate,” she added before noting, “We will be seeing the consequences of the chip shortage for years to come. These vehicles are going to stay in the fleet now that people keep their cars for more than a decade.”

Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports echoed her sentiments.

“It’s unfortunate that the chip shortage may prevent a new model from coming with the latest safety features that can prevent crashes and injuries. After all, better safety is one of the leading reasons people decide to upgrade their car in the first place,” he said.

“However,” he suggested, “most automakers have the required chips to keep producing their models without removing equipment — and a smart shopper will avoid the models that do.”

Included among manufacturers temporarily removing the features from production were Volkswagen and Cadillac and the IIHS VP said, “It’ll mean that fewer of tomorrow’s vehicles on the road will have this important technology.”

The current average age for a car is now over 12 years, according to Fox Business.


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