Automakers have agreed to make automatic braking a standard feature in most cars and light trucks by the year 2022. Transportation officials announced that the voluntary agreement made by 20 automakers is directly designed to save lives and prevent injuries. Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says that an agreement of this kind saves time rather than waiting through the lengthy process of allowing the government to issue mandatory rules regarding the safety feature. “A commitment of this magnitude is unprecedented, and it will bring more safety to more Americans sooner,” Rosekind said. Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council, said the agreement, “has the potential to save more lives than almost anything else we can accomplish in the next six years.”
Safety advocates are still pushing for the government to issue mandatory rules. Voluntary agreements are not enforceable, and although the automakers have enthusiastically agreed to commit to the timeline of six years for cars and light trucks and eight years for heavier SUVs and pickup trucks, they cannot be enforced without mandatory government rules.
There are about 1.7 million rear-end crashes in the United States each year. More than 200 people are killed, 400,000 others injured, and the cost is nearly $47 billion. NHTSA has estimated that the automatic breaking system could prevent more than half of these crashes each year. Automatic braking systems use cameras, radar, and other sensors to see objects that are in the way and slow or stop the vehicle if the driver does not react. It is the most important safety technology currently available but not required in vehicles.
Of the 194 most popular vehicle models currently on the market, 17 come with braking as standard equipment. It is available as part of an options package in 71 other models. According to Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, the six to eight year timeline is designed around automakers saving money. They don’t want to have to redesign vehicles or change production schedules sooner than planned. However, the agreement still achieves the safety goal an estimated three years faster than the government regulation process could achieve alone. Now automakers must agree on setting a high standard for how effective the brakes will be. Without high standards, the agreement may not be effective in saving lives.
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