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NHTSA Announces Automatic Emergency Break Systems Will be Standard by 2022

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On March 17, 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced what it called a “historic commitment” of 20 automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard on new vehicles.

The plan is that virtually all new cars will have automatic emergency braking no later than September 1, 2022, with many rolling it out before then. The NHTSA believes this group commitment will make this “important safety technology” available faster than it would be otherwise.

What is Automatic Emergency Braking?

According to the NHTSA, automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems “detect an impending forward crash with another vehicle in time to avoid or mitigate the crash.” These systems help to reduce human error, by alerting the driver that there is an obstacle ahead, and if the driver doesn’t respond fast enough, the system automatically applies the brakes to help prevent a collision or a crash, or at least to make any resulting accident less severe.

The NHTSA sees these systems as the “next wave of potential significant advances in vehicle safety,” with the potential to save lives and reduce what are currently common rear-end crashes.

AEB systems use sensors, radar, lasers and/or cameras to watch out for potential crash risks, whether they be other vehicles, pedestrians, or other hazards in the road. Most provide a warning first—audible and/or visual—and then intervene if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough. Some systems also “charge” the brakes so they perform with maximum effectiveness, and “pre-tension” the seatbelts to prepare for a collision.

NHTSA States AEB Systems Will Save Lives

The NHTSA states that in 2012, “one-third of all police-reported crashes involved a rear-end collision with another vehicle as the first harmful event in the crash.” It believes that AEB systems could significantly reduce this number, and help save lives and limit injuries.

Some vehicles are already equipped with some version of these systems. “Dynamic Brake Support (DBS)” supplements a driver’s braking if he/she doesn’t brake hard enough, in an attempt to avoid a crash. “Crash Imminent Braking (CIB)” automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to do so. These two forms of AEB have been on some vehicles in the U.S. since 2006.

Now, the NHTSA says that 20 automakers have pledged to implement these systems throughout their product line—which covers about 99 percent of the U.S. vehicle market participating automakers include Audi, BMW, FCA US LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors Inc., Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo Car USA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has estimated that the broad implementation of this technology will prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injures over a 3-year period.

“By proactively making emergency braking systems standard equipment on their vehicles,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “these 20 automakers will help prevent thousands of crashes and save lives.”

The IIHS added that the systems will also help offset insurance losses, “so that more insurers can explore offering discounts or lower premiums to consumers who choose AEB-equipped vehicles,” according to IIHS Board Chairman and CEO of American Family Insurance Jack Salzwedel.