WASHINGTON -- An industrywide agreement to make automatic emergency braking standard will bring the technology to the nation’s new-vehicle fleet at least two years faster than a government mandate would have, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.
The agreement -- brokered by NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and announced here today -- commits major automakers to equipping nearly all new light-duty vehicles with automatic braking and forward collision warning by 2022.
According to a recent IIHS study, automatic emergency braking can cut rear-end crashes by as much as to 40 percent. But fewer than 10 percent of new cars offer automatic emergency braking as a standard feature.
A NHTSA spokesman said the agency reviewed previous “technology forcing” rule-making processes and found that most took eight years or more to take effect. The mandate for rear-view cameras, for example, was proposed in 2010 and doesn’t take effect until 2018.
The accelerated timeline makes the deal a milestone in NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind’s tenure at the agency, during which he has prioritized speed in cementing safety improvements across the industry over adherence to agency procedure.
“A commitment of this magnitude is unprecedented, and it will bring more safety to more Americans sooner,” Rosekind said in a statement.
NHTSA, IIHS and automakers have been hammering out details of the commitment since September, when the regulator and safety group announced that 10 auto companies agreed to make automatic emergency braking standard on all cars in the near future.
The original group as identified by NHTSA consisted of Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. Since then, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche and Subaru joined the pact.
Together, the group represents about 99 percent of U.S. light-vehicle sales, NHTSA says. Reuters reported the 2022 commitment on Wednesday.
The automakers agreed to make the safety feature standard on nearly all new cars weighing 8,500 pounds or less by September 2022. For technical reasons, some light-duty vehicles, such as those with manual transmissions, will get extra time. Vehicles between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds have until September 2025.
To meet the commitment, the automatic braking systems must receive at least an “advanced” rating under IIHS’ current testing criteria. For that, they must reduce a vehicle’s speed by at least 10 mph in either a 12 mph or 25 mph test, or by 5 mph in both tests. The systems must also include a forward collision warning system that meets NHTSA standards.
IIHS periodically tightens its rating criteria to encourage performance improvements over time, but under the automakers’ pact, the requirements will stay locked to IIHS’ current criteria, a NHTSA spokesman said.
NHTSA and IIHS will monitor automakers progress and automakers have agreed to provide annual progress reports that will be made public.
Consumer Reports, which has called on automakers to make automatic braking a standard feature, will also track progress.
"This proven technology is among the most promising safety advances we’ve seen since electronic stability control almost two decades ago," Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for the magazine, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with NHTSA and IIHS to help put this plan into action and hold automakers accountable for their commitments."
Safety advocate Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, criticized the pact for working outside the federal rulemaking progress, without public comment. She also said the deal was unenforceable by NHTSA, and warned that an automaker could pull out at any time.
“I think it’s a terrible precedent, because it was done in secret,” Claybrook said. “By and large if the agency has the authority to do something, it ought to use its authority.”