NHTSA is out with its latest recommendations for crash-prevention tech, and it's a clear path to making automatic emergency braking systems mandatory on all new cars sold in the U.S.

Automatic emergency braking – or AEB – has been rolling out on higher-end vehicles for the past few years, using either front-mounted sensors or cameras to detect a rear-end collision before it happens. Most of the systems alert the driver with a visual warning – an audible alert or flashing lights on the dash – while others apply the brakes automatically before a crash. The latter is what NHTSA is taking an interest in.

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According to the fed's data, one-third of crashes in 2013 reported to the police were rear-end collisions. Most of those cases showed that the driver either didn't apply full pressure on the brakes or didn't touch the pedal at all.

NHTSA isn't saying it plans to require the technology on new cars yet, but it's seeking to add it to its revised and ever-expanding New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which basically acts as a safety score card for new car buyers. That's a first step towards a broader mandate, similar to what it's done with air bags, ABS, and stability control in the past, and most recently back-up cameras, which will be required on all new cars in 2018.

More importantly, NHTSA sees AEB as part of a larger suite of safety technology that's set to roll out in the coming years. In its official statement, it lumped the automatic braking in with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and autonomous driving technology which "hold great promise to save even more lives and prevent even more crashes, building upon the successes of crashworthiness and crash avoidance technologies currently available in vehicles today."

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