For the automotive industry, pedestrian safety has been a serious concern since the horseless carriage. Londoner Arthur Edsall was the first driver to strike and kill a pedestrian in 1896 at a speed of four miles per hour. It took the U.S. Congress almost seventy years to impose automotive safety standards and mandate the installation of safety equipment and another thirty years before airbags became a required safety feature. Automotive safety standards in the United States are promulgated by a process of reviewing accidents after they have occurred.
In 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) finally addressed this standards - promulgation process in their Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements calling for an increase in the implementation of collision-avoidance systems in all new highway vehicles. The progression of this change in policy derived from the 2015 study (SIR-15/01) that described the benefits of forward-collision-avoidance systems and their ability to prevent thousands of accidents.
After that report was published, an agreement was reached with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that would require compliance with the Automatic Emergency Braking standard (“AEB”) on all manufactured vehicles by 2022. However, the agreement did not identify the specific technology that would enable AEB, and the question remains whether such technology is readily available and economically viable for industry-wide adoption.