March 17, 2016 / 3:08 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. safety agency says automakers to add automatic braking by 2022

An assembly worker drives a 2015 Ford Mustang vehicle off the production line at the Ford Motor Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

MCLEAN, Va. (Reuters) - U.S. auto safety regulators said on Thursday that 20 automakers have agreed to make automatic emergency braking standard on nearly all U.S. vehicles by 2022, a move that could prevent thousands of rear-end crashes annually.

At a press conference at a federal highway facility in McLean, Virginia, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hailed the voluntary commitment by 20 automakers representing more than 99 percent of U.S. vehicle sales. They include General Motors Co (GM.N), Ford Motor Co (F.N), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T).

Reuters reported the planned agreement Wednesday.

In 2012, rear-end crashes killed 1,705 people and injured 547,000 in the United States. About 87 percent of the deaths and injuries might have been prevented or lessened if vehicles had a collision avoidance system — because they were linked to driver inattention, researchers found.

The NHTSA estimated that the agreement will make automatic emergency braking standard on new cars two years faster than could be achieved if it began the process to legally require the technology.

The agreement will make the technology standard on virtually all light-duty cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 lbs. or less, beginning no later than Sept. 1, 2022.

The technology will be standard on virtually all trucks with a gross vehicle weight between 8,501 lbs. and 10,000 lbs., beginning no later than Sept. 1, 2025.

But the agreement is not legally enforceable, and some critics want the agency to make it legally required.

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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