DETROIT, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Business is good for American car makers. But the industry's safety record has been tarnished in recent years, with major companies like GM plagued by record recalls and safety defects, some of which have been linked to deadly crashes.
Regulators are hoping cooperation, not just fines, can help turn things around.
On Friday, the Department of Transportation announced 18 automakers had joined an agreement to share and analyze safety data. The effort is aimed at identifying safety defects in models before they go to production and onto the roads.
The majority of defaults responsible for recalls in recent years have been related to the growing role of computer systems in modern cars. It is hoped that collective data sharing and analysis will improve the ability of both automakers and regulators to catch computer glitches.
The new agreement is also aimed at safeguarding automotive technologies against cyber attacks.
"We all know that the performance today's vehicles achieve is due in large part to an increasing amounts of computer hardware and software under the hood and behind the dashboard," the DOT wrote in a news release. "And the era of automated vehicle technologies we're ushering in will add to that."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the agreement alongside participating automakers at the North American International Auto Show being held in Detroit. Foxx said the agreement is modeled on a similar safety arrangement among airlines negotiated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"On other modes of transport, we already have a model of industrywide collaboration," Foxx said. "[The FAA] safety management system, for example, requires a willingness among the airlines to share safety data."
Not everyone applauded the deal. Former DOT head Joan Claybrook called the agreement toothless.
"There is nothing preventing the auto industry from disregarding or outright violating these principles," she told the New York Times.
Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, promised his agency would continue to punish any and all violators of federal safety rules.