Automakers pulling out all the stops for safety’s sake

Cars will more readily come to a stop once automatic emergency braking comes standard.

For all intents and purposes, automatic emergency braking will no longer be an optional feature. In fact, within less than a decade, just about every new-car buyer will have automotive technology that enables them to stop on a dime, potentially avoiding a serious injury in the process. Why? Because nearly two dozen automakers have made commitments to adding the safety feature on future models so that it's standard, a new government report confirms.

In a joint announcement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 20 automotive manufacturers have pledged to make automatic emergency braking a conventional feature on all newly produced models, starting as early as 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. These include just about all luxury model companies – such as Porsche, BMW, and Meredes-Benz – as well as Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, and Volvo. In fact, 99% of the U.S. market will be outfitted with emergency braking within six years.

Anthony Foxx, DOT Secretary, indicated that this is one of the more exciting times in the storied history of automotive travel.

"By proactively making emergency braking systems standard equipment on their vehicles, these 20 automakers will help prevent thousands of crashes and save lives," Foxx explained. "It's a win for safety and a win for consumers."

Automated technology reduces accident severity

Several analyses have affirmed how automated technology provides better accident protection to the consumer public. One of which was done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Researchers found that while automated vehicles didn't prevent accidents completely when compared to conventional models, they did reduce the seriousness of these incidents.

"Less-severe events may happen at a significantly lower rate for self-driving cars than in naturalistic settings," the report found.

This is especially true as it pertains to rear-end accidents. IIHS revealed in a study released earlier this year that rear-end collisions were slashed 40% when cars had both automatic emergency braking as well as forward collision warning systems.

David Zuby, IIHS Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer, said that the positive implications of 20 automakers making this formal pledge are truly epic.

"The benefits of this commitment are far reaching," Zuby said. "From injuries and deaths averted to the recovery of productivity that would otherwise be lost in traffic jams caused by the crashes prevented. It also assures that all Americans will benefit from this technology."

The safety enhancements among today's lineup of vehicles are undeniable. A separate IIHS analysis recently discovered the way in which cars are designed and reinforced has led to a drop in highway fatalities when compared to late-model vehicles. More specifically, for 2011 model year cars, IIHS found 28 driver deaths per million vehicle car years through 2012. This compared to 48 deaths for 2008 model year automobiles through 2009.

Deadly car accidents up 8%

Yet despite cars being more sturdily constructed, deadly traffic accidents have risen, proof positive that driver behaviors are the main cause. Preliminary figures from the National Safety Council found that motor vehicle deaths last year were 8% higher than in 2014. That would be the largest uptick in a half-century. Oregon, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina all witnessed double-digit increases.

"Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake, in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements," said Deborah Hersman, NSC President and CEO. "Engage your defensive driving skills and stay alert so we can reverse this trend in 2016."

As it relates to future models being outfitted with emergency braking, Hersman said that it has the "potential to save more lives than almost anything else we can accomplish in the next six years."

For the sake of safety, 2022 can't come soon enough.