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Auto Safety Improving With Adoption of Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Standard, NHTSA Reports

At least ten automakers have made significant progress in in standardizing automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology in new vehicles, which will greatly reduce the number of accidents and prevent injuries for years to come. However, federal officials indicate that some automakers have yet to implement the critical safety technology at all. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report this month that provides an update on the goal that every new passenger vehicle will be equipped with crash avoidance technology by September 1, 2022.

More than half of all new vehicles manufactured by ten high-volume companies between September 2017 through August 2018 were equipped with automatic braking systems as a standard feature, rather than making the life-saving technology an upgradable option.

In March 2016, NHTSA officials were able to get 20 automobile manufacturers, which account for more than 90% of the nation’s vehicle fleet, to publicly commit to implementing AEB technology in all standard lightweight vehicles, rather than charging a premium to consumers to add the technology as a luxury feature.

Terms of the commitment called for AEB to become standard on virtually all light-duty cars and trucks with gross vehicle weights of 8,500 pounds or less beginning no later than September 1, 2022, and to have AEB a standard feature on all trucks with a gross weight between 8,501 pounds and 10,000 pounds beginning no later than September 1, 2025.

The braking technology has proven to be beneficial in several studies, including one published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which indicated AEB technology could reduce insurance injury claims by as much as 35% by compensating for distracted driving mistakes attributed to a majority of auto accidents.

Based on the agency’s new reporting, roughly half of the vehicles manufactured since September 2017 have been equipped with AEB as a standard feature, which is an increase from the projected one-third of vehicles previously equipped with the technology.

NHTSA reports 10 of the 20 automobile manufacturers have stuck by their commitment, with Tesla being the leader, selling 100 percent of new vehicles with AEB as a standard feature. Mercedes-Benz was second, with a 96 percent rate of AEB implementation followed by Volvo, Toyota then Audi, all with conformance rates between 87 percent and 93 percent.

Other manufacturers among the top ten include Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda/Acura, Mazda, and Subaru all with over 50% conformance rates.

However, not all automobile manufacturers have made significant progress. BMW, Maserati, General Motors, Hyundai and Kia fell below the half way mark. Other manufacturers such as Fiat Chrysler, Porsche, Ford/Lincoln, Mitsubishi and Jaguar all fell into the zero to ten percent conformance rate at this time.

Despite commitments from 20 automakers and a November 2015 federal register notice indicating that the agency will be upgrading its 5-Star Rating System to include AEB as a recommended safety technology by 2018, some highway safety advocates believe the efforts have been weak, and more enforceable efforts could be taken to implement several safety technologies at a faster rate.

In 2016, the Center for Auto Safety, and Consumer Watchdog, together with former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook, filed a complaint (PDF) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming the NHTSA violated federal law by failing to respond to a petition within 120 days, which requested the NHTSA to use its statutory authority to mandate AEB systems be required as standard equipment in all new vehicles effective immediately.

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