Home » Automatic Braking Could Soon Be Standard On All New U.S. Cars

Automatic Braking Could Soon Be Standard On All New U.S. Cars

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My job means I get to drive brand-new, high-tech modern cars all of the time. They have gotten safer, faster, more efficient and overall better in just the decade I’ve been doing it. But when it comes to car safety, I’ve found that there’s still no substitute for just paying attention and general competence behind the wheel.

Even so, mistakes happen, and that’s why automatic braking systems—already a super-common feature on many new cars—may soon become required standard equipment in the U.S.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

That story kicks off this Monday at The Autopian. Also on tap: electric car names are bad, electric charging companies struggle with Wall Street and more on the fight over AM radio in new cars. Let’s dive right in.

Auto Braking Is The Next Big Safety Standard

Thum 1
Photo: Nissan

I say “cars have gotten safer” over the past few years, and that’s true, but America still saw almost 43,000 traffic deaths in 2022—about 117 people per day. Those unfortunate numbers have been rising for years now and to understand why, you have to look at who is dying: pedestrian and cyclist deaths are way up compared to the previous decade. There are a lot of reasons for this, including inadequate sidewalks and road infrastructure and the fact that our pivot to trucks and SUVs means cars are bigger, heavier and deadlier than ever for anyone not inside them.

So it’s no wonder why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing car companies make automatic emergency braking into standard equipment for new vehicles. Here’s The New York Times on this:

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The agency is proposing that all light vehicles, including cars, large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, be equipped to automatically stop and avoid hitting pedestrians at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour.

Vehicles would also have to brake and stop to avoid hitting stopped or slow-moving vehicles at speeds of up to 62 m.p.h. And the systems would have to perform well at night.

“We hope this will avoid many crashes,” Polly Trottenberg, a deputy transportation secretary, said at a news conference. “We know this is going to save lives.”

About 90 percent of the new vehicles on sale now have some form of automatic emergency braking, but not all meet the standards the safety agency is proposing.

What that means, according to NHTSA, is cars would be required to have automatic emergency braking systems that engage up to 62 mph and not only recognize pedestrians but recognize them at night too. While AEB systems are remarkably popular options and sometimes standard equipment on many cars, this would put them in place across the board just like airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Next, NHTSA will take public comments from automakers, safety groups and citizens before deciding to finalize the rule and that could take a year or more. After that, it’ll go into effect in another three years.

The downside, of course, is the added cost to automakers that will get pushed onto the consumer, as if modern cars aren’t expensive enough already. At the same time, we have all got to do something about this glut of person-outside-the-car deaths and this may just help make a big difference there.

What Is Going On With Electric Car Names?

Honda E.ny1 2025 1600 03 1
Photo: Honda

Here’s something thankfully a bit lighter after that last item, but still relevant. How was “bZ4X” (something I have to continually Google each time I write it to make sure I got it right) the best Toyota could do for its first modern EV? Or Honda’s new Euro-market e:Ny1? How do you even pronounce that? E-NY 1? Eeeny-one? Is it named after New York 1, the greatest local news operation on the planet?

The truth is, all of these new EVs have names like physics equations, or one of Elon Musk’s kids. Bloomberg is here to call them out:

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Over at Jaguar, a driver could be forgiven for assuming the carmaker’s electric option is the E-PACE, but that model has a gas engine. The battery-powered Jag is the I-PACE. And no one could fault a Volkswagen fan for confusing the carmaker’s ID.4, an SUV-shaped EV, with the ID. Buzz, a recast of the company’s famous van.“Honestly, a lot of these names are just trying too hard,” says David Placek, founder of Lexicon Branding, which helped name Lucid Group Inc., the Subaru Outback and the Honda Ridgeline. “Everyone is kind of scrambling.”

Placek says a great product name needs to check three boxes: It has to be memorable, noteworthy and distinctive within its category. It also helps if the moniker is “what we call ‘processing fluent,’” Placek says. “When the mind looks at it and says ‘OK, I can get that.’”

Many new EV names fall short. They either hew too closely to tradition to feel noteworthy, or stretch so far for distinction that they aren’t memorable.

A bunch of others just sound bad—EQS AMG from Mercedes, which is dumping the EQ branding now anyway—or Audi’s confusing “e-tron” lineup that also includes a standalone car called the e-tron. And it’s unlikely names like “EV6” will hold up well as these things become mainstream.

Do you know what the best EV name is right now? The Ford F-150 Lightning. Chef’s kiss, man. It almost makes up for the Mustang Mach-E, which has a hyphen even though historically “Mach 1” did not and it’s grammatically incorrect here. I will go to my grave mad about that.

Of course, now that I bring this complaint up, they’ll just bring back names I loved as a kid as EV crossovers. I’d hate to see the Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica go that way, but I also wouldn’t be shocked.

EV Charging Companies Face Wall Street Skepticism

Charging At Home Apartments And Condos2
Photo: ChargePoint

With the glut of EVs coming soon, you’d think charging providers would be the next big thing. And they are! As I wrote for The Atlantic recently (yes, that’s a flex, but I’m pretty proud of it so allow me a moment to feel good about myself for a change) America’s public charging network needs to not only grow but grow up. This huge contingent of EV drivers won’t put up with the annoying stuff the early adopters did, like broken chargers, outdated plugs, proprietary payment apps and zero customer service.

A ton of new companies are rising to take advantage of the $7.5 billion the Biden Administration is putting forth to build out a better EV charging infrastructure, and most of the ones I’ve talked to are keen on fixing those problems.

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The problem is, Wall Street investors want to place bets on the future. Revenues are up but stock prices are down at the charging providers.

And in a shitty capital market, they don’t like the overhead costs involved or the idea that many of these companies will not survive—or at lest not find a way to be profitable. Remember, many of them make their money (or the bulk of it) from selling maintenance contracts to property owners rather than selling electricity.

Here’s Bloomberg again:

But the companies are spending heavily to deploy chargers in what some liken to a land grab, and investors have grown leery of the amount of capital the companies will need to install their plugs along roadsides and parking lots. None of the charging companies has yet proven it can turn a profit, nor is it clear when any will. And the industry already has a cautionary tale: Volta Inc. The San Francisco company, worth an estimated $1.4 billion when it went public via a special purpose acquisition company in 2021, quickly used up its cash and accepted a $169 million buyout offer from Shell Plc in March.

“If you’re burning cash, and you still need to raise cash, well, that’s a stock that’s not going to get a lot of love,” said Gabriel Daoud, managing director of equity research with Cowen Inc. “There is certainly a risk that a number of these companies will run out of cash and become insolvent.”

There are larger economic factors at work here, of course. Interest rates are high, investors are carefully watching EV growth, and a few of these companies went public via SPAC deals and those have since gone kaput. I’d say a rebound feels imminent at some point; these cars have to get their electrons from somewhere.

AM Radio Doesn’t Go Down Without A Fight

Mazda 3 2014 1600 9d
Photo: Mazda

Do you still listen to AM radio? Hell, do you still listen to FM radio? Both are functions automakers would love to kick to the curb as they seek to cut costs from new EVs any way they can. Plus, EV motors tend to create a slight interference with AM radio signals.

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It’s an old-school technology that still has its defenders today even if automakers like BMW, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla and Volkswagen (among others) don’t offer AM radio on their new EVs. In fact, about a third of new EVs on sale in 2023 don’t have that function at all.

But government officials (and apparently, also people who long for the heyday of Rush Limbaugh) say dumping AM radio signals could have a huge impact on emergency broadcasts and disaster notifications. Lawmakers want to ensure it’s mandatory for future cars. Here’s Automotive News:

In December 2022, Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote to 20 automakers asking if they offered free AM or FM broadcast radio, if they had plans to discontinue those features in the future and if they offered digital broadcast radio.

[…] Now, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, and other legislators are shepherding the AM for Every Vehicle Act through the House of Representatives. It would direct NHTSA to require that automakers maintain AM broadcast radio in vehicles for free, among other provisions. The bill’s champions in the Senate include Democrat Markey and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The House’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has scheduled a hearing on the issue Tuesday, June 6.

It seems AM radio may have a few years, if not decades, left in it.

Your Turn

What radio do you listen to in the car? These days I’m pretty exclusively into XM Satellite radio (I got used to it on press cars and now can’t live without it) and Spotify for streaming music and podcasts. I can’t say I’ve touched an AM dial in about 10 years or more.

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Space
Space
1 year ago

You can use an AM radio to hear lightning, tune to the lowest frequency working channel, lightning strikes should be picked up, kids loved it.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago

Is there a technical reason they want to continue using AM for emergency broadcast?
Why not use FM which literally every car has?

Re:Charger networks.I understand wall streets skepticism.Maybe the only good solution is for the car companies to build their own

Space
Space
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron888

Yes, AM has a greater range than FM especially at night. Theoretically with enough power one station could broadcast to the entire continintal US at night.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
1 year ago

Local NPR on FM (WEMU). Channel surf the FM wasteland some of the time for music.

AM occasionally for Michigan games, otherwise never. It’s clearly valuable for emergencies though.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
1 year ago

I’m far from confident about where we actually are on this, but remember that AEB only needs to be better than humans, not completely bug free.

RustBucket67
RustBucket67
1 year ago

I don’t like the idea of mandating automated emergency braking.

that requires radar

which will add adaptive cruise

which all cost more money and further inflates the costs of new cars.

when the best solution is, as always, people need to PAY ATTENTION. that goes for drivers and pedestrians.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 year ago
Reply to  RustBucket67

I find adaptive cruise control infuriating. It starts matching the speed of vehicles you are “catching up on” well before I’d actually want it to, which means in heavy traffic you are constantly having to override the cruise control just so you can effectively pass without cruise control slingshotting you as you pull out to pass. Let me get a bit closer than normal following distances sometimes so I can smoothly pass without having to drastically change speeds all the time.

Or my wife will end up following someone going about 5mph slower than she actually wants to go for 20 minutes before she realizes…

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Flush: I thumb through the FM stations. Austin’s got some decent ones. Usually it’s on KUTX. Longer trips get whatever music’s downloaded to my phone. Medium-length ones (or ones where I can swap the idiotic single plughole on my iPhone back to a charger) sometimes get a Spotify playlist, but I’m not the biggest fan of the extra battery-suck there.

It almost makes up for the Mustang Mach-E, which has a hyphen even though historically “Mach 1” did not and it’s grammatically incorrect here.

It’s also not a Mustang, for the record.

All these jumbles of numbers and letters make “Taycan” seem normal, and Taycan is inherently a little silly. At least it lends itself well to puns, though. I’m Taycan my sweet time enjoying those.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stef Schrader
Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 year ago

No radio, music on my phone only. If there existed a station that could provide the specific cocktail of Ladytron, The Birthday Massacre, Metric, and Final Fantasy XIV my dopamine-starved ADHD neuron loaf requires, I’d be all over it.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Zeppelopod

Hell yeah, I would listen to this station, too.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Well now you’re legally required to blast “Torn from the Heavens” on your next Lemons attempt. Go forth, Warrior of Light!

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago

I usually sum things up as “I don’t want Version 1.x of anything”.

Good point about Euro vs US pedestrian safety. Actually fixing things would mean The Gummint Taking Away Your ™ massively oversize pickups/SUVs. And they’ve already conspiracy-theoried walkable cities.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nlpnt
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

What is that creepy abomination walking in front of the Versa in that Nissan graphic?
Don’t stop hit it.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 year ago

It looks like the “stonks” guy.

Nissan, engage warp drive.

That Guy with the Sunbird
That Guy with the Sunbird
1 year ago

Car listening: XM because I got a lifetime subscription to each car for $8 a piece. Don’t know if that particular representative was in a good mood that day, on their way out the door, or what, but I’m not complaining. $16 a month isn’t bad. I also have Spotify and CarPlay if XM isn’t my mood that day.

Automatic braking: We used to have a 2019 Toyota Highlander with it and every time it went off and tried to “save” us from an accident, an accident wasn’t anywhere close to likely nor was the system even necessary to be activated. It was a nuisance more than anything. Our current 2016 Mazda CX-5 (we downgraded cars to save money and re-budget) has it as well but it only works in stop-and-go traffic and not at highway speeds.

Sivad Nayrb
Sivad Nayrb
1 year ago

Nope. No. NWIH.

Too much to go wrong with the technology, and you’d see way more crashes with following cars not equipped with automatic brake tech slamming into the car with brake tech.

On this idea, The Government and Automakers can take an aerial intercourse…

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
1 year ago
Reply to  Sivad Nayrb

But then the old car without the brake tech is off the road… Gotta thing bigger here!

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
1 year ago

I worry that automatic braking might kill off manuals. I dont car shop often but my current car a GR86 manual does not offer automatic braking but it does if you opt for the auto. Anyway I have to wonder how many manuals get automatic braking?

All manufactures should need to do is come up for a way to clutch in for this but I have my doubts about them actually doing it.

Patrick
Patrick
1 year ago
Reply to  HumboldtEF

My GTI has the emergency braking with a MT. It’ll simply stall, but then again, it’s an emergency brake..

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
1 year ago

The daily commute is a cell dead zone, and FM stations fade in and out, so I switch a lot, even to AM for sports and weather. Favorite station is KPIG, and whatever station is carrying the Bob & Tom in the morning. Long drives it’s bluetooth for Pandora.

George Daily
George Daily
1 year ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

I live on the other coast and agree with you.

Dave Garland
Dave Garland
1 year ago

AM almost never. FM occasionally (NPR news, classical, and sometimes music from one of the other nonprofit stations). Tried a free trial of Sirius and it was like cable TV, 150 channels but absolutely nothing I wanted, certainly nothing I’d pay for. Trips I’d want AM available, as there may not be many other choices, but for music I’d either play from my phone, or play off of a USB stick. But almost all of my driving is in my metro area.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave Garland
LarsVargas
LarsVargas
1 year ago

My phone connects via Android Auto. It has a 512GB SD card that holds my music collection. That’s how I get my car’s stereo to make noises.

I bought it on December 5, 2022 and have not used the AM or FM radio, nor the satellite radio even during the free trial. I haven’t even set up the presets, although I shoudl since it’s a little jarring when the phone disconnects an the radio goes to 530AM.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 year ago

Do you still listen to AM radio?”

Yes… great for news, sports and comedy stations.

“Hell, do you still listen to FM radio?”

Yes… for music and CBC radio.

“Both are functions automakers would love to kick to the curb as they seek to cut costs from new EVs any way they can”

Carmakers can go fuck themselves if they want to cut costs in this area. Having AM/FM functionality costs them a few pennies per vehicle at most.

They can save a lot more by deleting AWD, heated seats, leather seats and a bunch of other crap.

Plus, EV motors tend to create a slight interference with AM radio signals.

Stacks
Stacks
1 year ago

Ha, I read that Atlantic article, but I didn’t even notice who wrote it. Or at least I started it, then I was like, psh, I know this stuff, I read The Autopian every day.

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