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Status Report, Vol. 51, No. 4 | April 12, 2016 Subscribe

Automakers compete to add standard autobrake ahead of schedule

IIHS demonstrates autobrake technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.

A 2022 deadline to voluntarily make automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard on nearly all new passenger vehicles has automakers vying to get the crash avoidance technology into their models before their competitors.

Toyota says it will equip 25 of 30 Lexus and Toyota models with its suite of crash avoidance features, which includes autobrake, lane departure warning and automatic high beams, by the end of 2017, five years ahead of the deadline. Autobrake comes standard on the 2016 Lexus GS and LX 570 and Scion iA.

Volvo equips all of its cars and SUVs with its standard City Safety front crash prevention system, and Mercedes-Benz includes standard automatic braking on most of its 2016 models. In addition, the technology is standard on the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid, Infiniti Q50 hybrids and Tesla Model X.

Consumers generally have to pay extra for autobrake when it isn't standard equipment. That can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new vehicle.

To get the proven crash avoidance technology into the hands of car buyers at all price points, 20 manufacturers have pledged to voluntarily make autobrake standard on nearly all their passenger vehicles by Sept. 1, 2022. The move should speed adoption of autobrake by at least three years compared with the typical course of a regulatory mandate.

The commitment was initially announced in September 2015 at the dedication of the Institute's expanded Vehicle Research Center. At the time, 10 automakers responded to the challenge. Since then, another 10 companies signed on as the Institute, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and manufacturers worked to iron out the details of the commitment and parameters for the technology.

NHTSA and the Institute in March unveiled the timetable for the commitment. Participating automakers include Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. These companies represent more than 99 percent of the U.S. automobile market.

"We're getting these safety systems into vehicles much faster than what would have been otherwise possible," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind notes. "A commitment of this magnitude is unprecedented."

The Institute estimates that shortening the time frame for standard autobrake by three years will prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries. Through 2050, the Institute estimates standard autobrake will prevent 230,000 crashes and 102,000 injuries.

"The benefits are far reaching, from injuries and deaths averted to the recovery of productivity that would otherwise be lost in traffic jams caused by the crashes prevented," says David Zuby, the Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer.

A recent IIHS study using U.S. police-reported crash data found that vehicles equipped with front crash prevention are much less likely to rear-end other vehicles (see "Crashes avoided: Front crash prevention slashes police-reported rear-end crashes," Jan. 28, 2016). Systems with automatic braking reduce rear-end crashes by about 40 percent on average, while forward collision warning alone cuts them by 23 percent, the study found. The autobrake systems also greatly reduce injury crashes.

In lieu of a regulatory mandate, the Institute's front crash prevention ratings have helped speed adoption of the technology. Launched in 2013, the ratings are based on HLDI research indicating that forward collision warning and autobrake systems help drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes (see Status Report special issue: crash avoidance, July 3, 2012).

Consumers who own autobrake-equipped models also stand to benefit when it comes to insurance premiums.

"IIHS member companies strongly support the adoption of effective safety technologies," says Jack Salzwedel, IIHS board chairman and chief executive of American Family Insurance. "Deploying AEB on a wide scale will allow us to further evaluate the technology's effectiveness and its impact on insurance losses, so that more insurers can explore offering discounts or lower premiums to consumers who choose AEB-equipped vehicles."

Under the commitment, forward collision warning and autobrake will be standard on virtually all light-duty cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 pounds or less beginning no later than Sept. 1, 2022. The technology will be standard on virtually all trucks with a gross vehicle weight between 8,501 pounds and 10,000 pounds beginning no later than Sept. 1, 2025.

To encourage further development of the technology, NHTSA plans to accelerate its research on more advanced autobrake applications, including systems that reduce the risk of collisions with pedestrians. In December 2015, NHTSA announced plans to rate autobrake systems and other advanced technologies under its 5-star safety ratings beginning with 2018 models.

"The Institute, too, will continue to look for ways to strengthen autobrake systems," says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. "We also will look at other features, for example, better headlamps and rear autobrake, that can help reduce the annual toll of more than 30,000 deaths and 2 million-plus injuries from motor vehicle crashes and move us further toward Vision Zero."

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