Nearly every passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. will come with standard forward crash-prevention systems in 2022, according to an announcement to be made tomorrow.

Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are available today as an option on some cars—mostly luxury vehicles. But a voluntary agreement between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and major automakers means the technology will be standard on every trim level of most light vehicles starting in 2022. Some heavy-duty pickups and SUVs will have a slightly longer timeframe, as will passenger cars with manual transmissions.

This key advancement in automotive forward-collision safety will be unveiled tomorrow at a press conference, where the Department of Transportation will be joined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Consumer Reports.

Forward-collision warning and automatic braking are advanced safety systems that use cameras, lasers, and/or radar to detect an imminent crash. In a car with one of these systems, the driver is warned of an obstacle and the brakes are engaged automatically.

Although six years may seem like a long time for the agreement to come to fruition, it is necessary because technology like this often cannot be retrofitted on cars already in production. Most vehicles have a lifecycle of five to seven years between redesigns. This voluntary agreement should allow every vehicle currently on the market to be redesigned with the forward-crash technology incorporated into the new model. And many automakers have pledged to accelerate the rollout of this technology to vehicles that are redesigned before the 2022 timeframe. This was the case with electronic stability control, where many manufactures had already added the feature to their vehicles before the 2012 NHTSA-mandated deadline.

With more than 1.7 million rear-end crashes a year, these technologies are expected to prevent thousands of crashes, injuries, and save lives.  

According to IIHS, vehicles equipped with forward-collision warning and automatic braking see incidents of rear-end collisions reduced by 40 percent, with bodily injury claims cut by 30 percent.

Not yet included in this voluntary directive are some exotic specialty cars and commercial trucks. But 99 percent of all cars fall will under this new agreement. High-performance sports cars, or trucks that weigh more than 8,500 pounds, won’t fall under this new instruction but will follow later, according to a source close to the matter.

Consumer Reports worked diligently to advocate for these potentially life-saving features, as did NHTSA and IIHS. In September 2015, NHTSA and IIHS challenged automakers to make these collision avoidance technologies standard. This agreement is an outgrowth of those talks.

Consumer Reports has been actively testing automatic emergency braking systems for more than a decade and has recognized it as a significant feature capable of saving lives, reducing injuries, and protecting property. It is a feature that we feel is so important that we award bonus points as part of our Overall Score to car models that have forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard across a vehicle’s model line.

“We have been calling on automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard in all new vehicles, and today is an important step toward reaching that goal,” says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing. “This proven technology is the among the most promising safety advances we’ve seen since electronic stability control almost two decades ago. We look forward to working with NHTSA and IIHS to help put this plan into action and hold automakers accountable for their commitments.”

"The announcement lays the groundwork for these life-saving systems to be standard on all new vehicles," said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. "Consumers deserve the protection that these technologies provide, and they should have them in their cars as soon as possible. We urge manufacturers to swiftly roll out these systems across all models and trim levels earlier than 2022, and we support NHTSA's intention to set mandatory rules if automakers drag their feet."

Forward-collision warning and automatic braking features are standard on a few vehicles, and available on many cars as optional features. To see which cars already have these systems, see our guide to models with advanced safety features.