U.S. Will Require Emergency-Braking Rule on All New Vehicles in 2029

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In 2029, a mandate is set to revolutionize the safety standards of new passenger vehicles in the United States. Automatic emergency braking, a feature designed to prevent collisions and protect pedestrians, will become a standard requirement. This initiative, announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aims to address the alarming rate of traffic fatalities and injuries, which currently stand at approximately 40,000 deaths annually.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the urgency of this measure, labeling it a crucial step in addressing the ongoing crisis of roadway deaths. The regulation marks the government’s initial venture into regulating automated driving functions, aiming to mitigate issues associated with driver-assist and fully automated systems. While around 90% of new vehicles already incorporate automatic braking under a voluntary agreement with automakers, the absence of performance standards has led to varying effectiveness among systems.

Under the new regulations, vehicles must meet specific criteria to automatically stop and avoid collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians, including nighttime scenarios. This mandate necessitates additional engineering efforts, potentially involving software enhancements and the incorporation of radar systems. Despite the projected increase in vehicle prices, estimated at $82 per vehicle annually, the potential benefits are substantial. NHTSA estimates that the regulation could save 362 lives, prevent 24,000 injuries, and save billions in property damage annually.

Critics argue that the standards should have been implemented earlier and express concerns regarding the inclusivity of vulnerable road users such as cyclists and scooter riders. However, the new rule mandates forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection braking for all passenger vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. Vehicles must demonstrate the ability to avoid collisions with vehicles ahead at speeds up to 62 mph and apply brakes automatically at speeds up to 90 mph to prevent imminent collisions.

The regulation addresses the prevalence of rear-end crashes and pedestrian fatalities, emphasizing the importance of intervention at speeds exceeding 25 mph. To ensure compliance, NHTSA will conduct random tests on vehicles, although the specifics of sensor requirements are left to the discretion of automakers. Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, views the new standards positively, highlighting the reassurance it provides to consumers regarding the efficacy of automatic emergency braking.

While the regulation extends the timeline for compliance to over five years, some advocates argue for a shorter implementation period to expedite the deployment of safer vehicles on the roads. Despite these debates, the imminent requirement for automatic emergency braking represents a significant milestone in prioritizing road safety and underscores the government’s commitment to reducing preventable accidents and fatalities.


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