Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is pushing vehicle manufacturers to make automatic emergency braking systems a standard feature on cars sold in the U.S., this shift appears to be some time away. Ten manufacturers responsible for more than half of all light vehicles sold in the U.S. in a given year have so far agreed to make this commitment, but as of right now only 1 percent of cars are equipped with this option.
As these automakers work with federal agencies to develop a timeline and specific performance and safety standards for automatic braking, a new focus is being placed on technology that could make automatic braking work better.
For example, at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show, automotive parts company Delphi showed off its vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) dashes, which allow cars to recognize each other while on the road. This information could either help a driver take appropriate action to avoid a collision, or allow a car with automatic braking technology to make the necessary adjustments.
The NHTSA is currently in the process of reviewing several different types of automatic braking technology.
According to a report by Newsweek, the NHTSA has already offer tentative support to this technology in a recent report, estimating that it could save more than 1,000 lives per year in the U.S., and possibly more as the technology becomes more widespread.
But one critical obstacle stands in the way. Though V2V dashes are relatively affordable (Delphi claims they will cost about $250 per unit) their utility is limited until they are included in large numbers of cars on the road. That's because the dashes are communicating with each other, and not cars themselves. Unless another car has one equipped, it won't be detected.
"It would take years for old cars to cycle off the road and for every car to come ready to talk to all the others—the average consumer keeps a car for about 10 years," read the Newsweek report. "That means it would be at least a decade after car companies start buying V2V before we're seeing the full benefit."
The NHTSA is currently in the process of reviewing several different types of automatic braking technology, as well as devices that could support it. Two of the most prominent technologies are crash imminent braking, which automatically apply the brakes to prevent crashes without driver input, and dynamic brake support, which adds additional braking force if the driver is not providing enough pressure. Regardless of which is chosen as the new standard for auto safety, its success will depend on the development of highly accurate sensors that can be counted on while on the road.