The European Union is pushing ahead with the approval of a new regulation that requires auto makers selling passenger vehicles in Europe to install new brake-assist systems.

Vehicles will be required to brake if their sensors indicate an accident is unavoidable. Generally referred to in the industry as active-safety or collision-avoidance technology, major global auto makers already have begun equipping some vehicles with such systems.

The proposed law also imposes detailed requirements for pedestrian-friendly vehicle designs.

The safety mandates are the latest in a long line of initiatives sponsored by the EU to force auto makers to make their vehicles less deadly to pedestrians and cyclists in road accidents.

They also signal a tougher stance by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.

Bureaucrats initially were content to rely on voluntary agreements with vehicle manufacturers to design frontal-protection systems less likely to maim and kill, and also to install safety features such as daytime running lights.

But the EC’s latest proposed legislation foregoes directives that can be interpreted by individual EU member countries and, instead, lays down one set of standards for all auto makers.

The proposed legislation has been approved in principle by the European Parliament’s influential transport committee. But there are sticking points on when to begin enforcing the mandates.

For example, the Parliament’s transport committee says the compulsory braking systems should be installed on cars and SUVs rolling off production lines starting in September 2010, rather than 2011, as proposed by the EC.

And both the Parliament and the EC want all new models fitted with the brake-assist systems if their sales launch falls within nine months of the date the regulation is approved – which could be by the end of the year.

Parliament also is backing the imposition of deadlines for manufacturers to comply with technical rules regarding bumper, windshield and hood design.

This calls for auto makers to ensure vehicle designs pass specified crash-dummy tests minimizing the impact of vehicle bumpers on pedestrians’ legs, hood tops on the heads of both adults and children and windshields on adult heads.

Parliament wants auto makers to ensure their vehicles comply with the current tests, created by the EU’s Joint Research Center and including any added tests, by December 2012, instead of a year later as proposed by the EC.