U.S. to require high-speed crash-avoidance tech on new cars
Cars must be able to stop themselves when they detect an imminent crash, even at high speeds and at night, per a newly proposed rule from U.S. safety regulators.
Why it matters: The proposed standard, which goes far beyond today's crash-avoidance technology, aims to reduce the carnage on U.S. roadways.
- An estimated 42,795 people died in traffic accidents in 2022, while 4.5 million are injured annually.
- If enacted, the rule could save at least 360 lives and reduce injuries by at least 24,000 annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Driving the news: Acting NHTSA chief Ann Carlson outlined the proposal at a Wednesday press conference, one day after President Biden withdrew her controversial nomination to permanently lead the safety agency.
- If enacted, the new rule would set higher performance standards for automatic emergency braking and pedestrian-detection technology.
Where it stands: Approximately 90% of new vehicles are equipped with some type of automatic emergency braking system, Carlson said.
- Sixty-five percent of new vehicles satisfy the test procedures for such technologies under the government's Five-Star Safety Ratings program.
- "The technology is mature enough now for us to propose mandating its inclusion in all new vehicles — and requiring these systems to be much more effective at much higher speeds," she said.
What's new: Under the proposal, U.S. safety standards would require what Carlson called "full collision avoidance."
- That means a vehicle must be able to stop without touching the car in front of it at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.
- If a driver brakes, but not hard enough, the system must be able to avoid a crash at speeds up to 62 miles per hour.
- "This could change a high-speed crash from a deadly one to a lower-speed crash with minor injuries or just property damage," Carlson said.
- Cars would also be required to stop and avoid pedestrians at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour — including at night, when 70% of pedestrian fatalities occur.
What's next: The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal.
Flashback: Twenty auto manufacturers volunteered in 2016 to equip their vehicles with an emergency braking system by Sept. 1, 2022, arguing that doing so was faster than waiting for a federal law.
- But some automakers have been slower to act than others.
- Plus, studies have shown the technology is not effective at high speeds or at night.
- Congress instructed regulators to enact tougher vehicle safety standards when it passed the infrastructure law in November 2021.
The bottom line: Like seat belts, air bags and antilock brakes, an emergency braking technology mandate could save lives.