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Fiat Chrysler commits to automatic emergency braking—and radar sensors

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(Read caption) This is the Chrysler logo on grill of a Chrysler automobile on display at the Pittsburgh International Auto Show in Pittsburgh (Feb. 11, 2016).

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced that it will join 19 automakers in signing an auto-industry commitment to implement automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology.

The pact, originally drafted in December by Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo, and now signed by most automakers, stands as a voluntary agreement, encouraged by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). Through it, the companies will adopt such active-safety technology whenever possible and work with safety agencies, with a target date of 2022 for industry-wide installation.

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Mazda on Thursday also committed to the agreement, revealing plans to make such features, which it currently brands i-Activsense, standard on all trim levels of all models, in a timeline that hasn't yet been specified. 

Rapid adoption of the technology could help contribute to a massive cut in vehicle crashes and related injuries and fatalities. Data from the insurance-funded IIHS has found that AEB technology can reduce injury claims by up to 35 percent.

The other U.S. safety agency, the insurance-funded IIHS, has made the availability (and a minimum performance level) of such systems required for a vehicle to achieve its Top Safety Pick+ tier of most-recommended vehicles.

Only "sensor fusion" technology, looking ahead

FCA’s announcement stands apart from those of some other companies because of its agreement to adopt so-called sensor fusion technology—the combination of radar and cameras—for all of its future AEB systems, widely considered to be a gateway technology that needs to be perfected for future autonomous vehicles. The incorporation of these sensors also helps in processing multiple hazards such as pedestrians and animals in the roadway.

Such systems are in theory a step ahead of the low-cost camera-based systems (now offered in a wide range of Subaru and Toyota models, for instance) as they offer more redundancy and precision—and a wider range of weather and road conditions in which the system is fully functional.

Chrysler plans to launch its Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus system—one that includes that whole suite of sensors—in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and it notes that such systems are already available in the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300, and Dodge Charger.

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This article first appeared at The Car Connection.