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Business trends

40 car markets agree to make automatic brakes mandatory

Japan and EU push rule that would help spread key self-driving tech

Automatic braking systems are estimated to reduce collisions during low-speed driving by 38%.   © Reuters

GENEVA -- Forty countries and regions including Japan and the European Union have agreed on a United Nations draft regulation that would require automatic braking systems in new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, further paving the way for the self-driving era.

Advanced emergency braking systems, or AEBS, would become mandatory by early 2020. The systems analyze cars and obstacles ahead and activate the brakes if there is danger of a collision. The immediate goal of the regulation is to reduce traffic accidents, but AEBS is also a core technology of autonomous vehicles.

South Korea and Russia are participating in the regulatory framework as well. The U.S., China and India are not, but if the rule takes effect, automakers that do not install automatic brakes may be unable to sell their vehicles in Japan, Europe and elsewhere. This could prompt manufacturers in countries not covered by the regulations to adopt the brakes anyway.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Europe is calling for more countries to join and plans to set formal rules within the year.

According to the ECE, automatic brakes reduce collisions during low-speed driving by 38% and can save more than 1,000 lives per year in the EU alone. The commission says the new rules will apply to more than 15 million cars annually in the EU and more than 4 million in Japan.

Automatic brakes are already installed in more than 60% of new Japanese cars. On Toyota Motor's high-end minivans, brakes that detect pedestrians at night come standard.

Subaru also uses a safe driving support system called EyeSight, which includes automatic braking. The Japanese government wants automatic brakes to be installed in 90% of new cars in 2020.

Japan and the EU pushed for the rule, which was discussed at the ECE's World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations. The move is partly aimed at setting international safety standards as competition for the development of autonomous cars intensifies.

Last March, a self-driving car operated by U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies killed a pedestrian in Arizona -- the first known fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.

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