Nearly all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the United States will be required to have automatic emergency braking systems by September 2029, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Monday, saying that the rule will save at least 360 lives annually and prevent at least 24,000 injuries.

The new rule comes as traffic deaths have spiked following the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Congress directed the NHTSA in the 2021 infrastructure law to create a rule to establish minimum performance standards for automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems, which use sensors like cameras and radar to detect when a vehicle is close to crashing and then automatically applies brakes if the driver has not done so.

The rule requires that systems detect pedestrians in both daylight and at night. Some small-volume manufacturers will be allowed to comply by September 2030.

The NHTSA in 2023 had proposed requiring nearly all vehicles to comply three years after publication, but automakers are now being given five years.

The NHTSA is requiring all cars and trucks be able to stop and avoid striking vehicles in front of them up to 62 miles per hour. The rule requires the system to apply brakes automatically up to 90 mph when collision with a lead vehicle is imminent, and up to 45 mph when a pedestrian is detected.

U.S. traffic deaths fell by 3.6% in 2023, the second straight yearly decline, but they remain significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

The fatality rate in 2023 was higher than any pre-pandemic year since 2008. In 2022, the number of pedestrians killed rose 0.7% to 7,522, the most since 1981.

In 2016, 20 automakers voluntarily agreed to make automatic emergency braking standard on nearly all U.S. vehicles by 2022. In December 2023, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said all 20 automakers had equipped at least 95% of vehicles with AEB.

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