We may still be some way off having fully autonomous cars to drive us around, but many of today's cars already have semi-autonomous driver assistance features, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB). Indeed, 20 carmakers have just committed to making AEB standard on new cars in the US by 2022.

AEB systems use sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect vehicles ahead. In the event that a potential collision is anticipated, the systems typically warn the driver first. If no evasive braking or steering action is taken, the vehicle's brakes will be automatically applied to prevent a crash or to reduce its severity.

The aim to have AEB systems fitted in cars as standard has been sought by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It follows an initial challenge made to automakers by the two organizations in September last year.

"With roadway fatalities on the rise, the commitment made today has the potential to save more lives than almost anything else we can accomplish in the next six years," says president and CEO of the National Safety Council Deborah A. P. Hersman. "Including all models in the agreement ensures that safety isn't for just those who can afford it."

The NHTSA says the agreement will make the technology standard three years faster than could be achieved through a formal regulatory process. In those three years, it believes 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries will be averted. The positive impact of the move is not expected to stop there though.

"The benefits of this commitment are far reaching," says IIHS Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer David Zuby. "From injuries and deaths averted to the recovery of productivity that would otherwise be lost in traffic jams caused by the crashes prevented. It also assures that all Americans will benefit from this technology."

The carmakers that have agreed to the the commitment are Audi, BMW, FCA US LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors Inc., Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo Car USA. According to the NHTSA, these represent more than 99 percent of the US auto market.

By way of the agreement, AEB will be made standard on most vehicles with a gross weight of up to 8,500 lb (3,856 kg) from September 1, 2022, or earlier and on most vehicles with a gross weight from 8,501-10,000 lb (3,856-4,536 kg) from September 1, 2025, or earlier.

Sources: NHTSA, IIHS