Twenty years after calling for the adoption of collision warning technology, a new report by the National Transportation Safety Board outlines the life-saving benefits of currently available collision avoidance systems (CAS), and the watchdog agency recommends that the latest technology be made standard equipment on all new passenger and commercial vehicles.

In the Special Investigation Report, “The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes,” NTSB admits that progress on a dozen related recommendations over two decades “has been very limited” and cites a lack of incentive and limited public awareness.

“The promise of a next generation of safety improvements has been used too often to justify inaction,” said Chairman Christopher A. Hart. "Because there will always be better technologies over the horizon, we must be careful to avoid letting perfection become the enemy of the good."

But progress has been significant and adoption actually is growing rapidly on the commercial vehicle side, especially in the Class 8 market.

The reason is simple: The technology works and makes good business sense for trucking, explains Alan Korn, director, vehicle dynamics and control at Meritor WABCO.

While the report—which Korn characterizes as an excellent summary of the issues—puts CAS market penetration at 8-10% in 2013, “it’s certainly higher today,” he noted. And though he was reluctant to speculate on the rate of adoption moving forward, Korn does estimate that market penetration could be near 20% for Class 8 highway tractors by the end of this year. The technology is also now being adopted in Class 5-7 trucks.

Indeed, while the report suggests the government agencies have been slow to come up with comprehensive standards to asses and test these systems—and which conceivably could  stifle product development—suppliers have not let that interfere with innovation.

“You might read the report and think there’s not a lot going on, but there’s an incredible amount of activity in the marketplace,” Korn said. “Suppliers are coming out with new and improved systems and the interest is there because they’ve been found to be very, very effective.”

The upcoming iteration of Meritor WABCO’s collision mitigation technology, OnGuard Active, will add automatic braking on stationary objects to the radar-based object detection warning system, for example. That technology is directed at the one-third of truck crashes which involve stationary objects such as a vehicle stopped in the road, Korn adds.