Automatic Emergency Braking With Pedestrian Detection to Become Mandatory on All New Cars

“These requirements are strong, but they’re also clearly feasible for automakers to meet, so we urge automakers to step up and meet this rule’s minimum standards without delay,” says William Wallace, associate director for safety policy at Consumer Reports.

Based on its initial testing, NHTSA says that automakers will be able to meet the new requirements with existing technology. In most cases, vehicles will only require new software. In 2023 CR submitted a petition signed by more than 24,000 consumers supporting NHTSA’s plans and urging the agency to finalize the strongest possible requirements.

Most new vehicles already have AEB, thanks in part to a 2016 voluntary agreement involving automakers, NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and CR. But the new rule goes even further. The voluntary agreement didn’t call for pedestrian detection, nor did it specify how well an AEB system must perform—an important distinction that can cut down on growing pedestrian and crash fatalities, especially since the effectiveness of most current AEB systems varies widely.

Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center, says that CR has been instrumental in getting automakers to adopt pedestrian detection. For a vehicle to be named one of Consumer Reports’ Top Picks, it has to come with standard AEB with pedestrian detection.

“In 2019 CR told automakers that having AEB with pedestrian detection standard would affect the score of models, and we gave them a full year’s notice before making it a requirement to be a Top Pick. Today, about 90 percent of models have this feature standard,” Fisher says. “The fact that so many vehicles already come standard with this important safety feature undoubtedly cut back on opposition to the regulation.”

NHTSA’s new rule goes even further, setting requirements for how well an AEB system must work. Today’s AEB systems engage at different speeds depending on the vehicle; some make higher-speed AEB optional. That’s why establishing performance standards is a major benefit for consumers, says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center.

“This rule marks an important shift from manufacturers voluntarily including these technologies to a requirement,” she says. “It means one less critical safety feature that consumers will have to shop for. Instead, this rule ensures that all new-car buyers will get this feature and that it will meet minimum performance standards.”