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Transportation

When the US Government Built Ultra-Safe Cars 520

Jalopnik has a piece on a mostly forgotten piece of automotive history: the US government built a fleet of ultra-safe cars in the 1970s. The "RSV" cars were designed to keep four passengers safe in a front or side collision at 50 mph (80 kph) — without seat belts — and they got 32 miles to the gallon. They had front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, and gull-wing doors. Lorne Greene was hired to flack for the program. All this was quickly dismantled in the Reagan years, and in 1990 the mothballed cars were all destroyed, though two prototypes survived in private hands. "Then-NHTSA chief Jerry Curry [in 1990] contended the vehicles were obsolete, and that anyone who could have learned something from them had done so by then. Claybrook, the NHTSA chief who'd overseen the RSV cars through 1980, told Congress the destruction compared to the Nazis burning books. ... 'I thought they were intentionally destroying the evidence that you could do much better,' said [the manager of one of the vehicles' manufacturers]."

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