A group of 10 automakers has agreed in principle to make automatic emergency braking (AEB) a standard feature across their lineups, according to an announcement made today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The move would significantly expand the availability of the safety feature, which is currently (generally-speaking) only available as an option in some non-luxury cars, and typically not in anything less expensive than a mid-size sedan. While some of the automakers behind this pact are known for upscale cars (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Volvo), the balance–Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Toyota and Volkswagen–are mainstream manufacturers that sell a large number of low- and mid-priced cars and trucks. Presumably, the actual number of makes that could add AEB as standard is greater than 10: GM is the parent company of Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC, Ford runs the upscale Lincoln division, Mercedes-Benz manufactures the Smart Fortwo, and Toyota also operates the Scion and Lexus brands. The IIHS announcement said those 10 automakers made up 57 percent of U.S. new-vehicle sales in 2014.
No timeline has been set yet; the IIHS says it will meet with the automakers “in the months ahead… to carry out that commitment.”
Recently, the IIHS began testing various automakers’ AEB systems for their effectiveness in reducing the severity of collisions–especially rear-end crashes–and cars whose setups work well can earn the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ designation. In cars with AEB, Forward-facing cameras or radar- or laser-based sensors are used to detect an obstacle in the vehicle’s path; when the driver fails to respond to visual and/or audible warnings, the car will automatically engage the brakes to reduce the severity of a crash. In most models that offer AEB, the feature is bundled with other features that rely on the same set of sensors, like adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a set distance behind another vehicle, and can bring the car to a complete stop in heavy traffic situations.