Ruckersville, Va. — Ten major vehicle manufacturers said Friday they have agreed in principle to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature on all future vehicles, but haven’t set a timeframe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced the voluntary commitment at a ceremony at IIHS’s expanded crash test and vehicle research facility here.
But officials said automakers will likely have a significant number of years before adding the technology to all vehicles — and it’s not clear what performance requirements will be included. There’s no penalty if automakers opt to not follow through.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters that it would take the agency at least seven or eight years before regulations could be written, finalized and in place to mandate the technology. “We haven’t given up anything,” Rosekind said. “This is not slow walking safety. This is like fast track. ... The only reason to do this is if it goes faster (than regulations). ... This is life saving technology that everyone should have.”
Rosekind said the agency hasn’t ruled out eventually proposing regulations to mandate the technology — and the agency has come under pressure from the National Transportation Safety Board to mandate it. “If this can’t get it done, we’ll do it,” Rosekind said.
IIHS President Adrian Lund said the group is looking for a commitment from automakers to standardize the technology before 2025
The sensor-based technology can detect a forward crash with another vehicle or pedestrian before it occurs, by alerting the driver to take corrective action or automatically applying brakes.
The companies that have agreed — BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Mazda Motor Co, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, Tesla Motors Inc, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and its Audi AG unit and Volvo — will work with IIHS and NHTSA in the coming months on the details of implementing the commitment, including the timeline for making it a standard feature and the performance requirements.
The 10 manufacturers committing to standardizing the technology represented 57 percent of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales in 2014.
NHTSA and IIHS hope to add large truck manufacturers and other automakers. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV safety chief Scott Kunselman said in an interview automaker is committed to the technology and could join the industry group.
Jeff Boyer, GM vice president of global vehicle safety, said the automaker backs “the call for a voluntary industry safety agreement that would lead to making forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking standard on light vehicles.”
In May 2013, NHTSA said it was considering requiring the technology in all future vehicles. It set a self-imposed deadline of the end of 2013 to decide whether to move forward with new regulations or to include it as part of the New Car Assessment Program. The agency opted not to seek to mandate the technology but in January it said it would add two automatic emergency braking systems to recommended safety features as part of its five-star New Car Assessment Program.
Automatic emergency braking include systems aimed at preventing the large number of crashes, especially rear-end crashes, in which drivers do not apply the brakes or fail to apply sufficient braking power. They use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver and, if the driver does not take sufficient action, engage the brakes.
“The evidence is mounting that AEB is making a difference,” Lund said. “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.”
A report from IIHS says the technology can reduce insurance injury claims by as much as 35 percent. IIHS said as many as 20 percent of crashes could be prevented by the technology. “Do the math. That’s 5 million crashes every year -- 20 percent reduction means 1 million less. Those are big numbers,” Rosekind said.
In 2012, rear-end crashes killed 1,705 people and injured 547,000 in the United States. About 87 percent of those deaths and injuries might have been prevented or lessened if vehicles had a collision avoidance system — because they were linked to driver inattention.
In July, the NTSB again urged NHTSA and automakers to do more to spur the introduction of forward collision-avoidance systems to keep cars from running into those in front of them.
Automakers have in recent years opposed new mandates, and say they could add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new car or truck. But in the European Union, automakers must now add the systems to get the highest rating in government crash tests.