Comments from US President Donald Trump have once again prompted concern from automotive industry players. This time it's not about steel tariffs or production investment tweets but rather vehicle safety testing.\r\n\r\nIn March this year, Trump gave a speech in which he criticised Japanese vehicle safety testing. "It's the bowling ball test. They take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and drop it on the hood of the car," Trump said, according to The Washington Post. "If the hood dents, the car doesn't qualify. It's horrible." Although these comments were later dismissed as a joke on the White House\u2019s Press Secretary, David Ward, Secretary General at Global NCAP was alarmed by the comments.\r\n\r\nThrough research and testing programmes, Global NCAP is striving to find the best global practice for crash testing and vehicle safety. Trump\u2019s comments highlight the pitfalls of regional divides for the regulation and mandating of safety tests, and the dangerous potential of ill-informed world leaders. David Ward outlined his concerns on this front in a recent interview with Greenstreetsoftware.info. \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYou recently sent a letter to Trump\u2019s office, addressing the speech he made in which he criticised Japanese vehicle safety tests. What was your biggest motivation in sending this letter?\r\n\r\nGlobal NCAP wouldn\u2019t normally become involved directly in a domestic US issue, but here he was gratuitously and factually incorrectly criticising another government\u2019s best practice, which is international best practice but is also applied in the EU and various other places. He was seeking to turn an accepted and important safety measure into a proxy for arguments about international trade by treating it as unfair trade practice. I've never seen a head of state do that.\r\n\r\nNormally, there is a respect for the fact that international regulations were promulgated through the United Nations. It\u2019s not fair game to play trade war politics with these kinds of standards.\r\n\r\nLooking at the current safety procedures generally, the US has seen a rise in road traffic deaths, with suggestions that this is due to driver distraction. \r\n\r\nI think driver distraction is part of it but it's not as simple as that. The 2016 figures, which are the latest available, show that there were about 37,000 deaths, 9% of which are distraction-related. The largest factors are not using seatbelts (28%), drunk driving (28%), speeding (27%), and interestingly, pedestrian impact (16%). It may be that some of the pedestrian impacts are because of distracted driving but from the basis of NHTSA\u2019s own data, it\u2019s still the old-fashioned behavioural problems of not wearing seat belts, speeding, and drink driving that account for the overwhelming majority.\r\n\r\nHave road traffic fatalities risen in any other markets, or is this specific to the US?\r\n\r\nMany high-income countries have been affected. There is an economic effect here that during the recession, which affected all the main OECD economies, there is a correlation between economic growth and activity and road crashes. Paradoxically, recessions are good for road safety because people drive less, and their exposure to the risk of road crashes diminishes.\r\n\r\nHow closely do you work with national and regional governments to influence vehicle safety technology regulations? \r\n\r\nWe work with national governments and regional bodies as closely as we can, and part of our way of doing that is through our partner NCAPs. For instance, Euro NCAP has governments from across Europe, and some NCAPs are purely government bodies. For our advocacy agenda, we\u2019re working at the United Nations (UN) level. In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that was supporting much of what we were saying. We see it as a very important exercise to encourage harmonisation around better standards, which is why we were so concerned with Trump\u2019s comments. In attacking a Japanese regulation, which is a global standard of best practice, he was attacking best practice in vehicle safety.\r\n\r\nTo what extent do your goals vary regionally?\r\n\r\nWe have been pushing a global agenda, working with the UN to encourage universal application of the basic UN crash test standards for front and side impact and the adoption of electronic stability control (ESC) by 2020. And also, the pedestrian protection requirements that were the subject of the Trump speech.\r\n\r\nThatcham Research recently used the phrase \u2018optional is not an option\u2019 when speaking about in-vehicle safety features. Do you feel safety technology should be mandated, or should fitment be driven by market forces?\r\n\r\nI don\u2019t think it\u2019s an either\/or - it\u2019s both. Over the last 20-30 years, it\u2019s the dynamic combination of better regulations and consumer information from NCAPs that has massively improved vehicle safety. It\u2019s like the push-me pull-you thing: regulations are a form of push. They push quality upwards because they\u2019re mandated. Then consumer information is a kind of pull mechanism, creating market awareness amongst consumers, fleet buyers and so on. They tend to then want to buy better quality vehicles. It\u2019s those two things working in harmony that act as the real catalyst for change.\r\n\r\nHave you noticed any difference in safety tech fitment since Global NCAP was established?\r\n\r\nPart of our mission is to encourage manufacturers to improve the safety fitment ratings of their vehicles in these different markets. That\u2019s what NCAPs have succeeded in doing. For instance, Latin NCAP has been going since 2010. There are quite a number of manufacturers earning five-star ratings, or even receiving a special award for vehicles that pass the pedestrian test, the one that Trump was disparaging. And that\u2019s nowhere near a regulatory requirement anywhere in Latin America. Yet there are manufacturers which are succeeding in securing that award. That\u2019s extremely encouraging.\r\n\r\nWhat\u2019s the next big goal for global vehicle safety?\r\n\r\nWe want to accelerate crash avoidance technologies so that they are more widespread and deployed more widely in more global markets. As they spread, you start to see economies of scale kick in. The cost of technologies drops when the size of the market into which they\u2019re sold expands dramatically. There is a very positive scenario of more progress with these systems between now and 2030. That is going to be much more significant in saving lives than full Level 5 autonomy, which isn\u2019t going to be making much of an impact this side of 2040.