LONDON – The European auto industry is giving a positive welcome to a European Commission proposal that all new-vehicle types should be fitted with brake-assist systems (BAS) by 2010.
The systems boost a driver’s braking power in emergencies, automatically giving full stopping power, and could save as many as 1,100 pedestrian lives annually, the EC says.
Rather than introducing the measure via the more common European Union directive process requiring each member state to meet broad legislative standards, the EC has opted for proposing an EU regulation, which has to be written into national rule books word-for-word.
The move is meant to speed up and simplify the process.
Assuming the wording is agreed upon by the EU council of ministers and the European Parliament, the regulation will repeal two existing passenger-safety directives and 27 related pieces of national legislation.
Once the regulation takes effect, all new-vehicle types will be required to have BAS installed from 2009, and two years later, all new vehicles will be required to comply.
At present, the regulation will apply to vehicles weighing 5,512 lbs. (2,500 kg) or less, but the intention is to phase in the requirement for heavier vehicles in the future.
To comply with the new regulation, auto makers will have to provide details of the system’s operating method and the testing the system has undergone.
The EC is coy about costs. Reinhard Schulte-Braucks, head of the legislative body’s automotive industry unit, said during the regulation’s announcement the cost to the industry for installing the system would not be “overly expensive.”
However, the EC’s own impact assessment estimates the costs to the industry of installing present-day BAS to be €711 million ($1 billion) and the cost to consumers at €995 million ($1.4 billion).
What would this add to the cost of an average car?
“BAS is generally no more than a modification to the advanced braking systems that have been standard in U.K. cars since 2004,” says a spokesman for the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, estimating a cost increase of about £200 ($400).
The EU regulation has been under discussion since 2001. The first BAS was pioneered by-Benz AG and TRW/Lucas Verity Research in 1992. Since then, the market has opened up, with Tier 1 suppliers such as Germany’s Robert GmbH and AG now producing such systems.
At first, only high-end brands such as Mercedes, Audi and Lexus had BAS, but Citroen,, Toyota and models now offer the system. The Micra minicar has BAS as standard, and the Daihatsu Cuore lists it as an option.
A precise industry figure for investment in BAS is elusive. However,in 2006 invested more than €2.7 billion ($3.8 billion) on research and development in automotive technology, much of which will go into further BAS technology.
Microcontrollers and sensors are crucial to safety systems such as BAS, says Reiner Kallenbach, Bosch’s head of automotive electronics sales. “We are investing around €600 million ($852 million) in a new semiconductor factory at Reutlingen in Germany.”
In order to help the auto industry gear up to meet the proposed regulation’s timetable, the EC split the difference between the 2010 deadline for first introduction that many EU car makers wanted and the 2008 deadline originally favored by Brussels.
Two years ago,Europe, which sells Cadillac, Chevrolet, Opel, Saab and Vauxhall brands, warned that too early a deadline for existing vehicle types would mean taking affordable cars off the market before alternatives were ready.
AG and Motor Co. Ltd. also opposed the original deadlines, pointing out that in small cars in particular, finding space in existing type-approved models for BAS would be impossible.
ACEA, the European automobile manufacturers association, favors a Sept. 1, 2010, start date for fitting BAS on all vehicle types. One reason the group gave during the consultation stage, was in order to fulfill the requirements of the BAS performance standard, new hydraulic pressure pumps with higher delivery rates may be needed.
This, in turn, means more space will be needed under the hood, something that must come at the beginning of a car’s development process.
The ACEA has not received everything it has asked for, but its reaction to the proposed regulation has been positive.
“The industry welcomes the proposal and thinks it’s feasible,” says an ACEA spokeswoman, while suggesting the EU pay similar attention to better enforcement of road-safety legislation and the improvement of roads to cut accident rates.