U.S. regulators are looking to require automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems on heavy vehicles in a bid to reduce the number and severity of rear-end crashes.
News of the initiative emerged June 22 in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
AEB systems use radar and camera-based sensors to detect situations where crashes are imminent and automatically apply brakes if drivers have yet to act, or apply addition braking force to supplement driver actions.
Under the proposed standards, the technology would need to work between 6 and 50 mph (10 and 80 km/h).
Substantial safety problem
“The safety problem addressed by AEB is substantial,” regulators say in the proposal.
NHTSA says heavy vehicles are the striking vehicle in 60,000 rear-end crashes a year — about 11% of all crashes involving heavy vehicles. The proposed rule would annually prevent an estimated 19,118 crashes, save 155 lives, and prevent 8,814 injuries, according to its estimates.
A similar rule proposed to require AEB systems in passenger vehicles and light trucks is expected to save 360 lives a year and reduce injuries by at least 24,000 annually.
The heavy-vehicle notice also proposes new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations requiring electronic stability control and AEB systems to be on when vehicles are operated.
‘The power to save lives’
The Truck Safety Coalition, Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Road Safe America petitioned for automatic forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems on heavy vehicles in 2015. And the rulemaking also supports recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board.
NHTSA began studying the related technologies more than 15 years ago. Most recently it found that a 2021 Freightliner Cascadia with AEB could avoid collisions with lead vehicles at speeds between 40 and 85 km/h.
“Advanced driver assistance systems like AEB have the power to save lives,” NHTSA chief counsel Ann Carlson said in a press release. “Today’s announcement is an important step forward in improving safety on our nation’s roadways by reducing, and ultimately eliminating, preventable tragedies that harm Americans.”
“Establishing AEB standards is a key component of the department’s National Roadway Safety Strategy,” added FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson. “This technology can enhance the effectiveness of commercial motor vehicle crash reduction strategies and reduce roadway fatalities.”
The American Trucking Associations welcomed the proposal.
“ATA has long supported the use of AEB on all new vehicles,” said ATA vice-president – safety policy Dan Horvath. “With NHTSA’s recent regulation requiring AEB on all new passenger vehicles, this proposal for heavy duty trucks is timely and appropriate.”
“The trucking industry supports the use of proven safety technology like automatic emergency braking,” he added. “We look forward to reviewing this proposal from NHTSA and FMCSA and working with them as it is implemented.”
Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 60 days.
Will Canada mirror the AEB requirements?
Such proposals are not limited to the U.S.
Transport Canada has been exploring similar mandates for this side of the border, and as recently as the spring of 2021 was consulting with stakeholders.
“Departmental officials are considering ways to align any proposed regulations with those in other countries, where possible. Next steps include exploring an outcome-based approach, which could facilitate harmonization by avoiding Canadian-specific prescriptive requirements which may diverge from requirements in other countries,” the regulator said in a related update.
“Transport Canada is currently reviewing the regulations and will establish a calendar for the changes once the review and analysis are completed.”
- This story has been updated to include comments from ATA, and details about Canadian proposals.
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