The European Commission plans to make Autonomous Emergency Braking systems (AEBs) a mandatory requirement in all new vehicles on the Continent by 2014. These systems typically use one or a combination of radar, lidar or video-recognition technologies to measure the distances between vehicles, warn drivers if they get too close, and to then engage the brakes if the driver fails to take any action.

Research led by the Commission found that such systems could reduce road traffic accidents by 27 per cent, saving some 8,000 lives a year.

Michiel van Ratingen, the Secretary General of Europe's New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) said, “We don’t want to force them [car makers] into this immediately, but we’ve made it very clear that the best way to ensure a five-star rating from 2014 is to have AEB on the vehicle.”

It's estimated that the systems could also save the economy between €5 billion (US$6.1 billion) and €8 billion (US$9.9 billion) a year in crash and accident-related costs.

“Our studies indicate that the resulting reduction in congestion due to accidents would represent an economic value of about €100 million (US$123.8 million) in Germany alone," said the European Commission's Phillipe Jean.

Commercial vehicles will be required to have the systems outfitted by November of 2013, with passenger vehicles likely to follow soon after in 2014.

According to Euro NCAP, 79 per cent of vehicles available for purchase today in Europe are not AEB equipped.

Euro NCAP has also said that currently AEB is found mostly in premium branded vehicles such as the Volvo XC60, but the systems are increasingly being optioned on higher-volume vehicles like the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Focus.

Euro NCAP provides an overview of AEB systems in the video below.