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By Jim Adler November 20, 2015

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 10 major U.S. automakers have made a commitment to install automatic emergency braking systems in every new vehicle they manufacture as a standard feature. This could pave the way for heightened safety for many Americans.

What Are Emergency Braking Systems?

Emergency braking systems are also known as automatic emergency braking (AEB) and advanced emergency braking systems (AEBS).

These systems use sensors to keep track of the distance between a car and other vehicles in front of it and detect times when their speeds and separating distances indicate a collision is near. The system can then initiate braking to diminish an impact or perhaps even prevent it, independently of the driver’s actions.

Such systems are most often involved in low-speed crashes or accidents with pedestrians.

An AEB can function with or without a driver’s actions by responding to data from forward-facing video and radar systems. Braking is applied automatically and instantly if the analysis concludes it’s needed.

In short, such systems do not constitute a “driverless car” but rather a car augmented with a system that can assist a driver in an emergency.

Studies have concluded that if every vehicle had an emergency braking system, U.S. auto accidents could drop by 27% per year and up to 8,000 lives could be saved.

Automakers Committing to AEB

The 10 automakers committing to AEB systems for their cars are: Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

In announcing the change on Sept. 11, 2015, the NHTSA said those 10 car makers delivered 57% of vehicles sold in the United States in 2014, so the new standard could have a major impact when instituted. However, no date has been set for the automakers to make the systems standard equipment on their vehicles.

The New York Times reports federal safety regulators may even try to make AEB systems standard for every car and truck, in the same way airbags became standard equipment for all vehicles 10 years ago.

However, according to auto industry analysts, automatic braking systems involve costly technology which every manufacturer may not be able to provide currently. Also, as AEB systems develop, they vary from one car maker to another, with no set industry standard yet.

According to an international group known as Thatcham that’s working to test AEB system performances, 7% of new vehicles now being sold have an AEB system as standard equipment and 17% more have AEB as an option that can be chosen by buyers.

Safety First

Jim Adler & Associates applauds any measures which can increase auto safety, perhaps by avoiding car accidents entirely rather than simply easing the force of an impact. That may be the case soon with more AEB systems.

As IIHS President Adrian Lund said, “The evidence is mounting that AEB is making a difference. Most crashes involve driver error. This technology can compensate . . . because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted.”

And as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx put it when announcing the initiatives, “We are entering a new era of vehicle safety, focusing on preventing crashes from ever occurring, rather than just protecting occupants when crashes happen.”

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