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Consumer Reports: Automatic emergency braking rule for new vehicles will help save lives—and stronger testing requirements would maximize the benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports (CR) called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) yesterday in regulatory comments to finalize a strong rule for automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems in passenger vehicles, including several improvements recommended by CR. 

CR has praised NHTSA’s initial proposal, saying it “meets the moment” and “would save lives, prevent costly crashes, and dramatically raise the bar for safety on our roads” by preventing or mitigating frontal crashes with cars and pedestrians. Still, CR wrote that NHTSA should take steps now to maximize the safety benefits of AEB and lower the risk of the final rule becoming quickly outdated. 

“Automatic emergency braking is a proven safety feature that should be standard on every new vehicle,” said Julia Friedberg, senior safety policy analyst for Consumer Reports. “Consumer Reports is pleased to see NHTSA taking action to ensure this life-saving tech is required on all cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks. But it is critical that this rule does not become outdated as soon as it is published, or soon thereafter. NHTSA can and should strengthen the final rule to save as many lives and prevent as many injuries as possible.”

Tens of thousands of Americans die from car crashes annually, and around one in five Americans said they or a family member had been hit by a car or had a close call as a pedestrian in the past year, according to a nationally representative survey of 2,088 U.S. adults conducted by Consumer Reports in January 2023. Included in yesterday’s comments, CR submitted a petition signed by more than 24,000 individual consumers supporting NHTSA’s plans and urging the agency to finalize the strongest possible requirements without delay.

The organization also submitted stories from CR members who had been involved in a vehicle-to-pedestrian or vehicle-to-bicyclist collision or had a close call. Many of these stories outline why these members are supportive of pedestrian and cyclist detection technology and contain specific details about the scenarios where they believe the technology would have benefited them or a person outside of their vehicle.

Safety advocates have been pushing for AEB requirements for years, and with a stronger rule, NHTSA can help save more lives. In the comments, CR wrote that NHTSA can improve its proposed rule by including more challenging testing scenarios and environmental conditions for AEB and Pedestrian AEB systems, adding test requirements to prevent vehicle collisions with bicyclists and motorcyclists, enhancing provisions to avoid false activations, and more. CR also urged NHTSA to shorten the manufacturer compliance timelines to speed up safety benefits and revise an analysis that likely underestimates the benefits of the rule to the public.

CR looks forward to seeing a strong final rule and will continue to work with NHTSA to make our roads safer for all. CR requires vehicles to have standard AEB with pedestrian detection and to operate at highway speeds to be included in its annual Top Picks for autos.

Media Contact: Emily Akpan, emily.akpan@consumer.org