Automatic braking to be standard by 2022

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced today that by 2022, all new vehicles made by 20 manufacturers will have automatic emergency braking as standard equipment. The 20 automakers that are part of the agreement cover 99% of the US market for new vehicles. The list includes all the big names, like Audi, Ford, Kia, Mazda, Porsche, and even Tesla.

Automatic emergency braking, or AEB, systems use sensors, such as lidar and radar, as well as cameras to detect a crash that’s about to happen and warn the driver so they can apply the brakes. If the driver doesn’t react quickly enough, the vehicle will take over and apply the brakes all on its own in an attempt to prevent or at least mitigate the crash. Lots of automakers already include AEB as part of their advanced safety systems, such as Subaru’s EyeSight, Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe, and Honda Sensing. What’s new is that the technology will be standard, not an option that can cost $1000 or more to add onto your new car.

According to NHTSA, this agreement removes about three years of red tape from the regulatory process. In those three years, the IIHS predicts that 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries will be prevented by AEB technology. As NHTSA announced in December, the AEB system testing will be part of the agency’s 5-Star Safety Rating in 2018, so there’s incentive for automakers to jump on this bandwagon as soon as possible, beyond just, you know, saving thousands of lives.

While forging an agreement between automakers and regulatory agencies without being bogged down by a formal process is unusual, it’s not unusual at all to require new safety technology in vehicles. Almost exactly two years ago, NHTSA required that all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds (which includes buses and trucks) be equipped with rear-view cameras by May 2018. And as of the 2012 model year, all passenger vehicles were required to have electronic stability control as standard equipment.