DETROIT (AP) – In a departure from Trump administration guidelines, U.S. auto safety officials say they will move to mandate or set standards for automatic emergency braking systems for new heavy trucks.
The Department of Transportation, which includes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, announced the change on Friday when it released its spring agenda.
It will also require strict testing standards for autonomous vehicles and establish a national database to document accidents involving automated vehicles.
The actions of President Joe Biden’s administration run counter to the position of the agency under President Donald Trump. The NHTSA had opposed the regulation of automated vehicle systems and said it did not want to stand in the way of potential life-saving developments. Instead, it relied on manufacturers’ voluntary safety plans.
In 2015, before Trump took office, the NHTSA proposed a regulation on automatic emergency braking, which, however, languished in the regulatory process. The agency says it has investigated the use of the electronic systems and plans to publish a proposed rule in the federal register in April next year. When a regulation is published, it opens the door for public comment.
“We’re excited that the NHTSA is finally taking the next step to make large trucks safer by engaging AEB,” said Jason Levine, director of the Center for Auto Safety, which was one of the groups that petitioned in 2015. At this rate, it will be years before the technology is needed that could help stop the 5,000 fatal truck accidents on our roads, ”he said in an email.
In 2016, the agency brokered a contract with 20 automakers, who represent 99% of US new car sales, to voluntarily make automatic emergency braking standard for all models by September 1, 2022.
The announcement of the conditions comes two days after four people were killed when a too fast moving milk tanker collided with seven cars on a freeway in Phoenix. At least nine people were injured.
The US National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating accidents and making recommendations to prevent them, said Thursday it would dispatch a team of nine to investigate the Phoenix crash. The agency said it would examine whether automatic emergency braking of the truck would have mitigated or prevented the accident.
Since at least 2015, the NTSB has recommended that automatic emergency braking or collision warnings be made standard for vehicles.
There are currently no federal requirements for articulated trucks to have forward collision warning or automatic emergency braking, although the systems are becoming more common on smaller passenger vehicles.
The systems use cameras and sometimes radar to see objects in front of a vehicle and they either warn the driver or even slow and stop the vehicle if it hits something.
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