Despite the voluntary effort, consumer advocates and safety groups say a regulation is still necessary for holding automakers to their pledge and setting the bar for system safety and performance.
"We've seen that car companies can move quickly" and equip more of their vehicles with the technology, Wallace said, but "it's important for NHTSA to go ahead and get a mandatory rule in place, get binding performance standards in place that apply across the whole market."
Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, stressed the word "minimum" and said automakers could even exceed the standards.
"It's really a basement for what automakers must make, which says, 'This system is going to detect, alert and respond if there is an upcoming collision,' " she said. "Anything beyond that is to the benefit of consumers."
As AEB is equipped on more vehicles, complaints concerning the technology have unsurprisingly gone up, said Michael Brooks, acting executive director at the Center for Auto Safety.
Starting in 2015 with a now-closed safety probe into certain Jeep Grand Cherokees over complaints alleging unexpected braking with no imminent collision, the center has tracked three other NHTSA investigations directly involving unintended activations of AEB, plus a fatal highway crash involving a 2015 Tesla Model S operating on Autopilot where the AEB system did not activate.
Two of the more recent investigations cover an estimated 416,000 2021-22 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles equipped with Autopilot and 1.7 million 2018-19 Honda Accord and 2017-19 Honda CR-V vehicles.
The center, too, continues to urge Nissan to recall 2017-18 Rogue and Rogue Sport vehicles, which are part of a still-open investigation from 2019 that has logged more than 1,400 complaints and field reports of braking problems associated with the AEB system and at least five injuries and 14 crashes.
"It could be the software. It could be the sensors. It could be the cameras — a lot of things depend on the type of system that's in use," Brooks said. "But whatever the case may be, there needs to be something in the standard to prevent these false activations."
Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y vehicles built for the North American market are no longer equipped with radar and, instead, rely on cameras for AEB and other active safety features, according to the EV maker.
The Honda models included in NHTSA's safety probe are equipped with "a version of Honda's Collision Mitigation Braking System that features both cameras and radar," Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in an email. Honda has not yet used lidar on any vehicle sold in the U.S., he noted.