US cars and trucks could soon be required to brake for you in an emergency

All new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. could soon be equipped with automatic emergency braking systems designed to prevent crashes with other vehicles and pedestrians, under a rule proposed Wednesday by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If adopted as proposed, nearly all U.S. light vehicles (gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) will be required to have AEB technology three years after the publication of a final rule. Under the proposal, the AEB system would have to be capable of stopping and avoiding contact with a vehicle at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour, according to NHTSA Chief Counsel Ann Carlson.

The DOT said the proposed rule is a key part of a national strategy the agency launched in January 2022 that is aimed at reducing the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Consumer safety advocates, who have long pushed for such a rule, agree.

“This strong rule would save lives, prevent costly crashes, and dramatically raise the bar for safety on our roads,” William Wallace, associate director of safety policy at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “It’s desperately needed at a time when more than 100 people in the U.S. die in vehicle crashes every single day. This has been a long time coming, and auto safety advocates have been calling for this for years — but this proposal meets the moment. ”

Automatic emergency braking systems, or AEB, is available on many modern vehicles today. Some vehicles come standard with AEB, while others require the customer to pay for the safety feature. The system uses sensors and software to detect when a vehicle is close to crashing and then automatically applies the brakes if the driver has not yet done so. Even if the driver has hit the brakes, the system will step in and apply more force.

Industry and government officials agreed in 2016 to make AEB standard in dozens of models. Toyota, and its luxury brand Lexus, were leaders in this effort. But the technology still isn’t widespread. Consumer Reports has seen in increase in the number of vehicles that offer the technology, but Wallace said “federal requirements would ensure every new car comes with this proven safety feature — without consumers being forced to pay extra for an expensive option package.”