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On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, an enormous piece of legislation that bounced around the federal government like a pinball throughout most of the year.
The law invests $1 trillion in infrastructure and job growth, but it also updates regulations for a number of sectors, including the auto industry. And while the legislation’s price tag hogs most of the limelight, it’s not the only detail in the 1,000+ page document that impacts you and me.
Nearly all the new rules for automakers focus on standardizing safety features, many of which are already offered in most new models. Other changes allow manufacturers to introduce features previously available only in other markets like Europe.
Future standards for future cars
Most safety features in cars start as innovations made by specific automakers, end up being adopted by other brands, and are eventually enforced by the government. Seat belts are a good example of a component that went through this process.
The technologies making their way into government regulation through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act cover a wide range of car safety factors.
The act sets potential mandates in motion for front end cameras, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, drunk-driving, and rollaway prevention, rear-seat belt reminders, and automatic engine shut-off systems.
Headlight upgrades coming thanks to the new infrastructure law
Currently, headlight performance in the U.S. is only rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a private non-profit funded by the auto insurance industry. But the Infrastructure and Jobs Act is about to change that.
Car and Driver says the legislation includes plans to standardize headlight performance, presumably through a rating system enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The act also sets a two-year deadline for the Secretary of Transportation to amend current standards that don’t allow adaptive driving beam headlights on U.S. roads. Automakers already started equipping cars heading to Europe with the technology years ago.
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act’s potential effects on car insurance
Much of the safety technology affected by the Infrastructure and Jobs Act is already standard in many new vehicles. Current models without these features may become safer, but they also might become more expensive, helping raise the average cost of a new car.
In most circumstances, the cost-to-benefit ratio of safety tech turns out for the better in regards to car insurance rates, but its effect is often shadowed by other factors like the driver’s driving record and choice of insurance company.
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