A large group of the world’s most prominent automakers has agreed in principle to make automatic braking (often called mitigated braking in automotive circles) standard equipment across the board on all makes and models. With the recent developments in automatic emergency braking technology, industry leading automakers Audi, BMW, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo have announced that they will work in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to work out the details of the agreement, including a timeline for implementing changes across their entire lineup.
With the previously named automakers taking the initiative to make automated braking standard on all models, prior to any government mandate, other automotive manufacturers will undoubtedly feel pressure to comply. In a sense, a silent challenge has now been issued to Chrysler, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and Subaru, to get on board with this program that can only result in the highways of America becoming safer. “Most crashes involve driver error,” Lund said in a statement. “This technology can compensate for the mistakes every driver makes because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted.”
NHTSA officials and IIHS president Adrian Lund made the announcement at a dedication event celebrating the opening of a new vehicle research center in Ruckersville, Virginia. “There’s always going to be a need for regulations to keep the public safe,” NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind said. “This is a new convention and a new pact. NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) and IIHS programs will continue, and regulations are still available, and we use all paths to save lives. The industry in this case though, hasn’t waited for regulation.”
The idea to form a conglomeration of automakers, working hand-in-hand with the NHTSA and the IIHS, was originated by Nat Beuse, associate administrator for vehicle safety research at NHTSA, and David Zuby at IIHS’s chief research officer, a spokesman for both groups said. Although the NHTSA has stopped short of demanding that mitigated braking be made standard equipment, they have taken steps to encourage the adoption of this and other types of innovative crash prevention technology. In January, for instance, they added automated braking to a list of recommended safety options that would be noted on window stickers affixed to new vehicles. The NHTSA hopes that this information will help to inform consumers of the latest developments in automated braking, as seen in government and factory testing.
Mitigated braking systems use laser sensors and cameras to detect imminent collisions and react to prevent a crash. Typical mitigated braking systems detect objects and other vehicles that will interfere with the perceived field of travel, and then calculate vehicle speed and distance to determine a course of action. Some scenarios will result in a visual and an audio warning to the driver. Other situations will require that the automated braking system begin applying gradual brake pressure in order to slow the vehicle down significantly. If the driver still fails to respond to the object or vehicle impeding the path of travel, the automated braking system will bring the vehicle to a halt using the braking system.
That sounds pretty good in theory and exhaustive testing has proven that this technology can be made extremely reliable. So, what’s the problem? Most mitigated braking systems have been offered as expensive optional equipment on select models. Usually these models were of the top-tier variety and the optional cost of the system could be cost prohibitive. Under the new agreement, automakers will “eat” a portion of the expense in an effort to make our streets safer. “If technologies such as automatic emergency braking are only available as options or on the most expensive models, too few Americans will see the benefits of this new era,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “These 10 companies are committing to making Automatic emergency Braking (AEB) available to all new-car buyers.”