Automatic braking systems are poised to become standard, but there are other crucial bits of tech out there

It wasn’t long ago that backup cameras were scoffed at as nanny tech for those with poor parking skills, but it’s difficult to imagine a new car on sale today without a backup camera installed from the factory. From a sales and marketing perspective, skipping on backup cameras, or even making them a costly option, would be a marketing disaster that would automatically earn poor grades in various car review publications — akin to offering a new car today without a passenger airbag. But passenger-side airbags themselves were an item associated with luxury cars as late as the early 1990s — a staple in premium sedans but by no means universal.

Now, in 2019, the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, aka UNECE, wants to make automatic emergency braking systems, or AEBS, standard equipment in all cars in the European Union and several other regions starting in 2020. While the U.S. itself is not a party to the treaty that the proposed U.N regulation builds upon, a group of 20 major automakers accounting for over 90 percent of all new cars on the road have made the same pledge for the U.S. by 2022.

By all accounts, it looks like AEB systems will be the next indispensable safety item, and how these systems operate still varies widely, which is why the U.N. is stepping in to set requirements for the method of their operation. 

But there is a greater variety of safety technologies out there at the moment — or still on the drawing board. Many of these standalone systems are part of Level 2 and Level 3 semi-autonomous cars, while others are a little more exotic, like Tesla’s sentry mode that will record suspicious people near a vehicle, especially if they try to peer inside, and will actually let them know that it’s monitoring them.

When it comes to systems that are components of autonomous tech, there are technologies like pedestrian detection, cyclist detection, road sign recognition, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, lane centering assist, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic warning with auto braking.

Out of all of these, the latter two items, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic warning with auto braking, are good candidates for safety tech that may become a standard item pretty soon. Many cars already have blind spot warning indicators, whether visual, audio or both, and rear cross traffic warning with auto braking appears to be a natural evolution of a backup camera, applying the brakes even in instances when the surround-view camera does not show an approaching pedestrian or vehicle. Surround-view cameras themselves are pretty much standard in many luxury cars today, and they are getting better. But they’re not a panacea — drivers still have to look outside when backing up, and the cameras by themselves won’t brake for you.

What safety tech item do you think should be mandatory in all new cars, whether in a pricey sedan or a bare-bones economy hatch?