Twenty major automakers will announce a voluntarily agreement to equip cars and trucks with automatic emergency-braking systems designed to detect and prevent crashes without driver action, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The agreement, expected to be announced Thursday, will specify that almost all U.S. cars and trucks will include the technology by 2022, said two other people who have been briefed on the announcement.
The U.S. Transportation Department and the insurance industry have been in talks since last year on voluntary commitments that would cover most new models. Automatic emergency braking systems use radar or other sensors to detect an imminent crash and, if needed, engage the brakes to avoid or minimize the impact of a rear-end collision.
The systems are designed to respond quicker than human reflexes in a crash situation. Human error is responsible for 94 percent of all traffic crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In September, only nine automakers were participating in the talks: General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Tesla Motors Inc., BMW AG, Daimler AG, Mazda Motor Corp., Volvo Cars and Volkswagen AG.
Automatic emergency braking is one of the biggest recent safety breakthroughs, reducing the likelihood of rear-end collisions by up to 40%, according to Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports magazine. It’s an important step toward cars becoming autonomous, he said.
The magazine, which influences consumers and manufacturers alike with auto ratings, changed its scoring system to give extra credit for models that come with emergency braking as a standard feature. Too often, automakers have been forcing car buyers to pay extra for the systems, and so only a small percentage of cars sold currently are being equipped with the potentially life-saving technology, Fisher said.
“We have really pushed for this to be standard equipment,” Fisher said. “Making it optional isn’t enough.”
Automakers will need to roll out a host of other autonomous-driving features in their fleets in the coming years to stay competitive, said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, a car-buying information website.
“The incremental cost of adding these high-tech driver aids is dropping every year, which is good for automakers because consumers are quickly coming to expect them, even on lower-prices models,” Brauer said.
The announcement will be made at the Federal Highway Administration test track in McLean, Virginia. Mark Rosekind, head of NHTSA, and representatives from several car companies and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are expected to attend.