“More effective” automatic emergency vehicle braking — which the Biden administration says would save hundreds of lives annually — has been proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Most automakers voluntarily agreed in 2015 to add sensors that would automatically apply braking if a crash is imminent, and most light-duty vehicles on the road today come standard with AEB. But the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing applications of more powerful, advanced technologies. The agencies want better AEB to be mandatory in all new vehicles within four years of the rule going into effect.
“AEB systems are a big step forward for saving lives on our roadways and preventing crashes,” U.S. DOT Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg said at a press conference Wednesday. “When deployed, AEB systems can potentially bring a vehicle to a complete halt or at least slow them down so that there’s significantly less damage on impact.” NHTSA projects the rule would save at least 360 lives and reduce injuries by at least 24,000 annually.
Two-thirds of new vehicles sold today meet testing procedures for the government’s five-star safety rating, also known as the New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP, according to NHTSA chief counsel Ann Carlson. “The technology now is mature enough for us to propose mandating its inclusion in all vehicles,” Carlson added, “but we’re doing a whole lot more than that.”
AEB will be required to be “much more effective at much higher speeds,” she said. Vehicles traveling as fast as 37 mph will need to come to a complete stop to avoid hitting pedestrians under the proposal. AEB systems will also be required to detect pedestrians and cyclists at night. According to NHTSA, more than 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, cheered the proposal, including a provision that would require the technology to work at night, a particular challenge for many systems. “Pedestrian AEB that works well at night is a game changer for protecting the most vulnerable people on the road,” Harkey said in a statement. “This proven technology takes action when a driver doesn’t and can reduce the severity of a collision or prevent the collision from happening altogether.”
The safety agency will take comments on the rule from automakers, safety advocates and the public before finalizing it.