Dozens of road deaths could be avoided each year if autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems were adopted, according to road safety groups.
Both campaigners and insurers are calling for a change in the law, which would make such systems compulsory and as commonplace as seatbelts.
AEB systems differ between car manufacturers but typically use a combination of lasers, cameras and radar systems to detect obstacles in front of the vehicle. If the system detects that the driver is making no attempt to avoid a collision – i.e they’ve been distracted – the car will automatically perform an emergency stop.
The systems aren’t completely infallible, with most carmakers stating that their AEB systems will only avoid a collision up to a certain speed, usually around 20-25mph, though the system will significantly reduce the severity of an impact above that point.
"If the driver doesn't take avoiding action it will automatically brake the car to mitigate the crash or completely avoid it altogether."
AEB systems are currently only fitted to around a fifth of new cars sold, though is available on a wide range of models from superminis to full size luxury saloons. It is hoped that a change in the law would see the technology fitted to every new car, with insurers predicting that 1,220 lives could be saved over a decade.
Matthew Avery, director of research at the insurance industry's research centre Thatcham, told the BBC that AEB is "the next seatbelt".
He added: "If the driver doesn't take avoiding action [it] will automatically brake the car to mitigate the crash or completely avoid it altogether."
However, critics have raised concerns that drivers could become too reliant on the technology.
The Department for Transport has said there are currently no plans to implement a change in the law which would oblige manufacturers to fit AEB technology across their model ranges.
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