No one knows for certain when fully autonomous cars will be sold to the public, but as of today, we know when autonomous braking systems will become standard on millions of new vehicles.
That's because this morning, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced a massive new agreement with 20 automakers, all of whom have promised to make automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard on new cars by September 1, 2022.
The list includes every major auto group and brand doing business in America: Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.
Together, they represent more than 99 percent of the U.S. auto market.
The 2022 agreement is focused on light-duty vehicles weighing up to 8,500 pounds. Manufacturers of trucks weighing up to 10,000 pounds will come standard with AEB by September of 2025.
For safety advocates, this is a huge win. AEB systems employ radar, cameras, and other sensors to assess a car's environment, applying brakes to avoid imminent crashes if a driver fails to act. The IIHS estimates that automated braking will prevent more than 9,000 auto accidents per year and 4,000 associated injuries.
It's also a win for consumers. Apart from the added safety benefits and AEB's potential to cut accidents and traffic snarls, the technology also stands to reduce costs of car ownership by lowering insurance rates. IIHS board chair Jack Salzwedel says that "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."
And it's also a victory for NHTSA. Coming to an agreement with automakers is far easier than passing new regulations through normal bureaucratic methods. NHTSA began meeting with car companies to hammer out details of this agreement seven months ago, in September 2015. If such a deal hadn't been made, NHTSA believes that jumping through all the required regulatory hoops to implement the policy would've taken three years longer.
New car buyers will shell out more for their rides. AEB is nifty technology, but it isn't free, and the cost will be passed on to consumers. The good news is that such costs have rapidly decreased since the technology began rolling out several years ago, and it can now be found for as little as $300-$400 on some models. If it's deployed on millions of new vehicles, economies of scale will likely slash prices further.
Used car owners will pay more for insurance. Insurers may slash premiums for owners of vehicles with AEB, but those without it could see premiums remain flat or even increase.
Do you already own a car with AEB? Are you excited to purchase one? Hesitant? Sound off in the comments below.