Several automakers have targeted 2020 as the year they're aiming to hit public roads with autonomous cars.
Whether that happens when they'd like to or much later remains to be seen, but it's not stopping companies from adding another important task to their to-do list — making automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard equipment by 2020.
On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Nhtsa) announced a commitment from 20 automakers — representing more than 99 percent of the United States automotive industry — to make the AEB systems a standard feature no later than Sept. 1, 2022. The automakers included in the pact are: General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, Audi, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Tesla, FCA US LLC and Mercedes-Benz.
"It's an exciting time for vehicle safety. By proactively making emergency braking systems standard equipment on their vehicles, these 20 automakers will help prevent thousands of crashes and save lives," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (pictured below), as part of the Nhtsa's announcement. "It's a win for safety and a win for consumers."
AEB systems help prevent crashes and even reduce their severity by applying the brakes for the drivers. The technology works with the combination of on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect imminent collisions, warning the driver first before applying brakes automatically if the driver doesn't respond quickly enough.
The AEB systems are already being offered as an option in some vehicles, but making them standard in six years would be unprecedented. In fact, the Nhtsa said that Thursday's agreement saves three years to deliver the technology as standard equipment because it bypasses the regulatory process. A total of 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries nationwide will be prevented in that span, according to the Nhtsa.
"We're getting these safety systems into vehicles much faster than what would have been otherwise possible," Nhtsa administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said. "A commitment of this magnitude is unprecedented, and it will bring more safety to more Americans sooner."
Perhaps fully-autonomous vehicles are closer to impacting roads in 2022 than 2020, anyway, meaning the AEB systems would be available to owners of those vehicles as well.