Active Safety breakthrough as car makers offer automatic emergency braking in US

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NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind announcing the AEB agreement (photo courtesy IIHS)
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind announcing the AEB agreement (photo courtesy IIHS)
Global NCAP’s ‘Stop the Crash’ campaign will partner with auto clubs and technology leaders to promote AEB
Global NCAP’s ‘Stop the Crash’ campaign will partner with auto clubs and technology leaders to promote AEB
FIA Foundation US Manager Natalie Draisin and Trustee Marilena Amoni attended the announcement
FIA Foundation US Manager Natalie Draisin and Trustee Marilena Amoni attended the announcement

Ten major car manufacturers in the United States have committed to making automatic emergency braking a standard feature on all future vehicles. With enormous potential to increase vehicle safety, the automakers represent nearly sixty percent of the US light-duty vehicle market in 2014.

The announcement by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday 11th September was made at the opening of an expanded all-weather crash test and vehicle research facility at IIHS. The agency is committed to evaluating the latest crash avoidance technology.

"We are entering a new era of vehicle safety, focused on preventing crashes from ever occurring, rather than just protecting occupants when crashes happen," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "But if technologies such as automatic emergency braking are only available as options or on the most expensive models, too few Americans will see the benefits of this new era. These 10 companies are committing to making AEB available to all new-car buyers."

The pledge leapfrogs regulations, recognizing the immediacy of the need to save lives, without waiting for a technology mandate. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the regulatory process could take at least seven to eight years, and the agency has come under pressure from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to mandate such technology. NTSB Vice Chair (and former FIA Foundation US Director) Bella Dinh-Zarr praised the efforts of IIHS and NHTSA in her speech at the event.

Administrator Rosekind said: "Secretary Foxx's direction to NHTSA is clear: We must work to expedite the implementation of advanced technologies to save lives at every opportunity. These 10 manufacturers have committed to an important principle: AEB is a life-saving technology that should be available to every vehicle owner. In the months ahead, NHTSA will work closely with IIHS and the auto industry to carry out that commitment, and we encourage every other manufacturer to join this effort."

The technology would detect a crash before it happens, warning the driver to brake and automatically applying brakes if the driver failed to do so. Automatic emergency braking was added to the list of recommended advanced safety features in NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program. US Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx is very committed to the Program, and in May announced a series of steps DOT and NHTSA will take to accelerate advanced safety technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Automatic emergency braking can prevent as much as 20% of crashes, says the IIHS. According to NHTSA, that’s 5 million crashes per year in the US. The technology would lead fatalities to go down as well – in 2012 in the US, 1,705 people died from rear-end crashes, and 547,000 were injured. If vehicles had a collision avoidance system which compensates for driver inattention, about 87% of those deaths and injuries would have been prevented or lessened.

Though there is not yet a timeframe on the commitment nor a penalty if automakers opt not to follow through, IIHS President Adrian Lund said they’d like a commitment from automakers to standardize the technology by 2025. The automakers, which will work with IIHS and NHTSA do determine a timeline to make automatic emergency braking standard, include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. The agency is also pressuring other light-duty and trucking manufacturers to take action. "The evidence is mounting that AEB is making a difference," said Adrian Lund. "Most crashes involve driver error. This technology can compensate for the mistakes every driver makes because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted."

The pressure will now be on car manufacturers to make a similar pledge in other markets beyond the US. At the 2nd Global High Level Conference on Road Safety, in Brasilia in November, Global NCAP – which receives major funding from the FIA Foundation – will launch a new ‘Stop the Crash’ campaign to promote the benefits of AEB, and to urge accelerated introduction of the technology in new cars across the world as part of a wider effort to achieve the road safety target of the new Sustainable Development ‘Global Goals’.

Click here to read the NHTSA announcement