Federal regulators don’t always pass rules that require motor vehicles to be as safe as current technology allows. In many cases, they leave it to the markets, or they attempt to obtain voluntary compliance with safety recommendations.
One of the areas where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working with manufacturers for voluntary change is low-speed automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems.
Twenty car makers have been voluntarily cooperating with NHTSA to equip virtually all of their new passenger vehicles with low-speed AEB, which also includes a forward collision warning system, by August 31, 2023.
“Automatic emergency braking can help prevent or reduce the severity of crashes, which also reduces the risk of injury,” said NHTSA’s deputy administrator recently. “We applaud manufacturers for moving swiftly to include lifesaving technologies in new vehicles. Through this voluntary approach, we are seeing significantly faster deployment of automatic emergency braking than we would have through regulation, and that means lives are being saved and injuries are being avoided today.”
Indeed, NHTSA estimates that the voluntary approach to making low-speed AEB standard in new vehicles is working better than would a regulatory mandate. The agency says this approach will make AEB standard on new cars three years faster.
Ten vehicle manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo) are already three years ahead of schedule in equipping all new passenger vehicles with low-speed AEB systems.
The agency points out that sales of motor vehicles have dropped by 23% in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, sales of vehicles equipped with AEB have only dropped by 9%. That indicates that manufacturers did not fall back on their goals to get AEB systems into new vehicles quickly.
Tesla and Volvo reported 100% compliance with the program, while BMW, Audi and Subaru reported 99% compliance. On the low end, FCA reported only 14% compliance and Jaguar Land Rover has not made AEB standard in any of its vehicles.
With AEB (with forward collision warning) becoming standard on new vehicles, more and more drivers will have access to two of the more important safety features introduced in the past decade. That could go a long way toward reducing the instance and severity of front-end collisions.