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Automatic Emergency Braking: A New Solution to an Old Problem

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/03/2016 Deborah Hersman

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Last week 20 automakers made a commitment that will save thousands of lives on our roadways.
Automatic emergency braking technology (AEB) will be standard on these manufacturers' vehicles by 2022 - three years faster than if the technology were formally regulated by NHTSA. In that time, NHTSA estimates the technology will prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries. Today Lexus and Toyota took the commitment one step further, pledging to integrate AEB into the fleet by 2017.
These commitments are unprecedented. Imagine how proud the old crash test dummies, Vince and Larry, would be. We have pivoted from simply mitigating crash severity to creating technologies that prevent the crash from happening in the first place.
We only have to look at the statistics to understand how important this commitment truly is. Car crashes remain a public health crisis. Although the causes have been well understood for decades - impairment, fatigue, distraction and speed - we have not been able to eradicate our humanness.
This means car crashes have impacted us all. If we are very fortunate, we have only been inconvenienced by our car being in the repair shop. But tens of thousands of families have suffered the death of a loved one - something no insurance coverage can restore.
The statistics became very personal recently. Last month my husband was rear-ended while he was driving my car. The driver of a Jeep Liberty failed to stop as my husband let an emergency vehicle turn. Thankfully no one was hurt, but my car was in the shop for weeks. Of course it seemed apropos that AEB technology could have prevented the crash from happening at all.
However, the situation quickly changed from inconvenient to tragic. Last week, we received a call from the insurance carrier following up on the crash. He notified us that the driver of the Jeep had been in a fatal crash that weekend.
You may be wondering what happened, or who was at fault. The truth is, it doesn't matter.
One-hundred people die every day on our roadways because of factors we know how to prevent. More disturbingly, we are on the wrong side of this trend. We estimate that traffic deaths were 8 percent higher in 2015 than in 2014 - the largest year-over-year percent increase in 50 years.
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Causality is important, but we must stop asking who or what is at fault and start asking what else we can do to save lives.
These automakers' commitment marks the start of doing things differently.
Vehicle safety technologies - not only AEB but dozens of others - could compensate for human mistakes. Unfortunately many Americans have no idea these life-saving technologies exist, much less how to use them.
The National Safety Council has partnered with the University of Iowa to create MyCarDoesWhat, a research-driven education initiative to help explain new vehicle technologies. MyCarDoesWhat.orgprovides infographics, tutorials and videos so drivers are not surprised when their vehicles start talking, blinking or even braking. We recently launched a new video explaining AEB technology.
As we integrate more technology into the fleet, we will encounter critics who are fond of models from the past. But you have all heard the saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." One-hundred lives a day is unacceptable. Regulators and the industry have produced a new solution to old problems.
2022 cannot come soon enough.
*Deborah Hersman is president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

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