Automatic emergency braking to become US standard

FILE - Brake warning light illuminated on instrument panel in a car. Getty Images

Automatic emergency braking will have to come standard on all U.S. new passenger vehicles in five years. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled the new regulation on Monday and called it the most significant safety rule in the past two decades. 

It's a requirement that the government says will save lives and prevent thousands of injuries by preventing rear-end and pedestrian collisions. 

Although about 90% of new vehicles have the systems standard now under a voluntary agreement with automakers, at present there are no performance requirements. 

The new regulations set standards for vehicles to automatically stop and avoid hitting other vehicles or pedestrians, even at night. The standard may also require some manufacturers to bolster software and possibly add hardware such as radar.

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The change will drive up prices, which NHTSA estimates at $354 million per year in 2020 dollars, or $82 per vehicle. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it will save 362 lives per year, prevent about 24,000 injuries and save billions in property damage.

"We’re living through a crisis in roadway deaths," Buttigieg said in an interview. "So we need to do something about it."

This is the U.S. government's first attempt to regulate automated driving functions.

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.