The U.S. Will Require Automatic Emergency Braking on New Cars

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shared a final standard that would require automatic emergency braking on all new passenger cars in the U.S. beginning in September 2029.

The mandate would set baseline performance expectations. All cars and light trucks would have to avoid colliding with another vehicle at speeds up to 62MPH. They’d also have to brake for pedestrians both day and night. Brakes would have to apply at speeds up to 90MPH with other cars, and 45MPH for pedestrians.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg argued the emergency braking requirement would avoid “hundreds” of deaths each year, and prevent “thousands” of yearly injuries. He characterized the harm as a national “crisis” that demanded action.

The NHTSA was tasked with implementing an automatic emergency braking rule in the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It also helps the Transportation Department implement a multi-layer safety strategy that also includes improvements to roads, driver behavior, road speeds, and post-collision care.

Roughly 90% of new cars already have automatic braking through a voluntary agreement. There’s no performance standard, though, so there are no guarantees one car will stop as well as another. The regulation theoretically ensures that every car will reliably come to a halt, including in situations the voluntary deal doesn’t cover.

The emergency braking rule could increase the costs for some car manufacturers. NHTSA officials said the 2029 deadline gives companies time to improve their systems as part of the normal design refresh cycle, however. And with semi-autonomous driving assistance becoming more commonplace, there may not be a significant price hike for most models.