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NHTSA Spotlight Could Hasten Spread of Auto-Braking Systems

Forward collision warning systems are now available on cars as affordable as the Ford Focus and Mazda3, but a new spotlight from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration could hasten their spread. On Thursday, NHTSA announced plans to add more collision-mitigation technologies to its list of recommended features in the government’s five-star crash-test ratings.

Related: Number of IIHS Top Safety Picks Spike for 2015

It follows the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s recent move to require the availability of forward collision warning systems with effective auto-braking for its highest award, Top Safety Pick Plus. Under the “recommended technologies” section next to each car’s five-star crash-test ratings, NHTSA will highlight systems that automatically brake just before a collision or add braking if you don’t brake hard enough.

The features, respectively dubbed crash imminent braking (CIB) and dynamic brake support (DBS), are part of what NHTSA calls automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. The acronym soup targets more specific action than the larger umbrella of forward collision warning systems, which warn the driver but don’t necessarily auto-brake. According to IIHS, more than 51 percent of 2015 models offer forward collision warning as standard or optional, but just 27 percent pair that with auto-braking.

In NHTSA’s proposal, which is taking public comments for 60 days, CIB and DBS will get separate icons under the “recommended technologies” section of any given model’s five-star New Car Assessment Program page, available through safercar.gov. NHTSA says it will test the effectiveness of such systems.

The program could undergo a larger overhaul: NHTSA said in its press release that this is just “the first step in a broader revision of NCAP.” The agency says a third of all police-reported accidents in 2013 involved a rear-end collision, and a large number of those came because the driver behind didn’t brake hard enough — or brake at all — before hitting the car ahead.

“These AEB systems, along with promising innovations such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V) and automated vehicle technologies hold great promise to save even more lives and prevent even more crashes,” the agency said in its press release.

Editor’s note: This post was updated on Jan. 23 with information from a NHTSA spokeswoman.

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