April 24, 2024

Traffic deaths are one of the most persistent causes of death in the United States, and the number of traffic fatalities continues to rise despite increasing use of warning and collision avoidance systems and air bags. Nearly 43,000 people will die in car crashes in 2022. That’s down slightly from 2021, but 31% higher than in 2014.

Traffic deaths continued to decline until about a decade ago when they began to rise rapidly. The rise was driven by a surge in pedestrian fatalities. An estimated 3,500 pedestrians were killed in the first half of 2022, the most recent period for which data is available. This is the highest number in 40 years.

The death toll exceeds the death toll. In 2019, car crashes cost the economy a total of $340 billion, according to safety agencies. That year, 36,500 people were killed in car accidents, 4.5 million people were injured, and 23 million vehicles were damaged.

Administration officials say the automatic braking proposal could save at least 360 lives and prevent an estimated 24,000 injuries each year. Even if automatic braking doesn’t prevent a collision, it can reduce the severity of an accident by slowing the car down.

Automatic emergency braking systems typically use cameras, radar, or both to spot vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other obstacles. By comparing a vehicle’s speed and direction to that of other vehicles or people, these systems can determine that a collision is imminent, alert the driver with an alert, and apply the brakes if the driver fails to act.

The first such system was launched in 2011. Five years later, automakers voluntarily agreed to make automatic emergency braking technology standard on all new cars and trucks by 2022. The agency said its proposed rule would impose higher standards for the use of technology than automakers agree to.

In a statement, the auto industry’s main lobby group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, neither supported nor opposed the proposed rule, calling automatic braking a “breakthrough technology” that automakers have “already deployed.”

Automatic braking is part of the advanced driver assistance systems found in some new cars. These systems are able to steer without human intervention and, in some cases, change lanes and allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel on the highway. These systems include Tesla’s Autopilot, General Motors’ Super Cruise and Ford Motor’s BlueCruise.

Federal safety agencies have been probing Tesla’s system because it appears to have failed to identify and detect other vehicles in some cases. The agency is investigating 43 crashes, 14 of which resulted in 18 deaths, that occurred while Autopilot, or another system the company calls Full Self-Driving, was activated.

Safety agencies will hear comments from automakers, safety groups and the public on the rules before they are finalized — a process that could take a year or more. The rule will take effect three years after its passage.

On Tuesday, President Biden withdrew the nomination of Ann E. Carlson to lead the agency. Some Republican senators opposed her appointment because of her past work on environmental policy. Ms. Carlson, previously a law professor at UCLA, has served as the institution’s acting administrator since September.

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