Automakers commit to putting automatic brakes in all cars to help prevent crashes

Industrials Associated Press

Ten automakers have committed to the government to include automatic emergency braking in all new cars, a step safety advocates say could significantly reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

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Making the technology widely available is part of a new era in vehicle safety in which the focus is on preventing crashes rather than on protecting occupants from their effects, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Friday in a statement announcing the commitments.

The announcement didn't specify a timetable for implementing the change. The automakers are Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

The technology is already available in some vehicles, but typically as an option in higher-priced models like Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus. They are also often bundled with non-safety features like heated seats or faux leather interiors, making the overall package more expensive.

"If technologies such as automatic emergency braking are only available as options or on the most expensive models, too few Americans will see the benefits of this new era," Foxx said.

Automatic emergency braking includes a range of systems designed to address the large number of crashes, especially rear-end crashes, in which drivers do not apply the brakes or fail to apply sufficient braking power to avoid or mitigate a crash. The systems use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver and, if the driver does not take sufficient action, engage the brakes.

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The systems could prevent or mitigate an estimated 80 percent of the rear-end collisions that cause about 1,700 deaths and a half million injuries annually, according to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board. There are about 1.7 million rear-end crashes each year in the U.S.

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