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Feds plan to require that all new cars be equipped with automatic emergency braking systems

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On Wednesday, federal transportation authorities announced a major rule proposal to require that new cars and light trucks come equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian AEB systems.

On May 31, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to require AEB on all light vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, beginning three years after the publication date of a final rule.

This rule would not have an impact on medium or heavy-duty trucks, though there is a separate rule proposal in the works for trucks.

“An AEB system uses various sensor technologies and sub-systems that work together to detect when the vehicle is close to crashing, and then automatically applies the vehicle brakes if the driver has not done so, or applies more braking force to supplement the driver’s braking as necessary to avoid or mitigate the severity of the crash,” the NHTSA said.

The NHTSA predicts that the AEB rule would save 360 lives a year and reduce injuries by at least 24,000 annually.

“Today, we take an important step forward to save lives and make our roadways safer for all Americans,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “Just as lifesaving innovations from previous generations like seat belts and air bags have helped improve safety, requiring automatic emergency braking on cars and trucks would keep all of us safer on our roads.” 

“We’ve seen the benefits of the AEB system in some passenger vehicles already even at lower speeds, and we want to expand the use of the technology to save even more lives. That’s why our proposed rule would require all cars to be able to stop and avoid contact with a vehicle in front of them up to 62 miles per hour. And the proposal would require pedestrian AEB, including requiring that AEB recognize and avoid pedestrians at night,” NHTSA Chief Counsel Ann Carlson said. “This proposed rule is a major safety advancement.”

The NPRM was issued in response to a provision in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requiring officials to move forward with AEB rulemaking for passenger vehicles.

In April 2023, the NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a joint rule proposal to the White House to require AEB systems for heavy duty trucks.

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