We talk a lot about safety on this website, reporting on the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rankings. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) has started to play a more key role in Top Safety Pick awards, and now, not to be left out, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a final rule on Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which will make AEB standard on light-duty vehicles by Sept. 1, 2029.

What is AEB?

AEB uses things like sensors, radar, lidar and cameras, working together to detect a collision and then automatically apply the brakes if the driver hasn’t done so. The final rule from the NHTSA says that these AEB systems must be able to detect both other vehicles and pedestrians.

Under this new rule, cars must be able to stop AND avoid contact with a vehicle in front of them up to 62 MPH. It must also apply the brakes automatically up to 90 MPH when a collision with a lead vehicle is imminent. As it pertains to pedestrians, which also includes bikers, the system has to work in daylight and darkness, and must work at speeds up to 45 MPH when a pedestrian is detected.

“Automatic emergency brkaing is proven to save lives and reduce serious injuries from frontal crashes, and this technology is now mature enough to require it in all new cars and light trucks. In fact, this technology is now so advanced that we’re requiring these systems to be even more effective at higher speeds and to detect pedestrians, said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman. “Most new vehicles already come with AEB, and we expect that many cars and light trucks will be able to meet this standard ahead of the deadline, meaning even more lives will be saved thanks this technology.”

In fact, NHTSA says 360 lives a year will be saved and 24,000 injuries will be prevented each year with this tech in place.

Not so fast

Even though the NHTSA says that most vehicles already have this tech, and it should be easy for them to comply with this mandate, we want to say slow your roll. If you look at the front crash prevention scores from IIHS, not all the pickup trucks make the grade. Ram 1500 and Ford Maverick only get Marginal ratings, which make them ineligible for the TSP awards. Honda Ridgeline, Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra haven’t been tested yet, so they’re still TBD – but those trucks get disqualified from the TSP awards for Marginal or Poor ratings on other tests.

So, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the truck segment to not only comply with the new NHTSA rules but also start winning safety awards.

If you’re curious about the safest trucks currently on the market, we have an article for that.

Will this rule apply to all trucks?

The short answer is no. It won’t apply to heavy-duty trucks. It will, however, apply to compact, midsize and full-size trucks – which includes all your 150 or 1500 designations. This makes sense since heavy duty trucks aren’t currently crash tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS.

The bottom line

While this new added tech will also likely increase truck prices even more, we think it’s worth the cost. Seriously, what’s a life worth? It’s priceless.

However, hopefully the price won’t be as steep as it could be since all modern trucks do have some form of this tech already. It just needs to be fine-tuned and beefed up to work at higher speeds and varying shades of light and dark. We expect IIHS to adjust its TSP awards to reflect this new rule, perhaps as soon as 2025.

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