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With eye on elderly, Japan to make automatic brakes mandatory for new cars from late 2021

Kyodo

Japan will oblige domestic automakers to have all new and remodeled passenger cars equipped with automatic brakes from November 2021 amid a rise in the number of accidents involving elderly drivers, the government said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will also apply stricter standards on automatic brake systems in line with a U.N. international standard that is set to come into effect next month.

“Accidents caused by elderly drivers are a pressing issue that needs to be tackled by mobilizing every possible measure,” transport minister Kazuyoshi Akaba told a news conference.

At the same time, Akaba warned of accidents that can be caused by having too much trust in automatic brake systems and reiterated calls for careful driving.

Cars subject to the ministry’s new regulation are new and remodeled vehicles that are manufactured in Japan and will be sold from November 2021. Models already on the market will be required to be equipped with automatic brake systems from December 2025.

For imported vehicles produced by foreign automakers, new vehicles will be required to be equipped with the brakes from around June 2024, and for existing models from around June 2026.

More than 80 percent of new domestic vehicles had already been equipped with automatic brakes in 2018, according to the ministry.

The new international standard on automatic brakes, compiled in June by a committee of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, an affiliate of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, will be reflected in Japan’s road transport vehicle law.

The new standard includes requirements for automatic brakes, such as the ability to prevent a car traveling at 40 kilometers per hour from colliding with a stationary car ahead of it, or a car traveling at 30 kph from hitting a pedestrian crossing a road.

The ministry also said Tuesday a total of 80 car accidents reported in January to September this year were believed to have been caused by drivers placing too much confidence in automatic brakes. Eighteen of the crashes resulted in injuries or death.

In 2018, such accidents totaled 101, and 72 in 2017, according to the ministry.

Automatic brakes use a radar system to detect and monitor vehicles and other objects ahead and can alert the driver to the danger of a collision before the brakes are applied automatically.

But automatic brakes do not operate if the camera installed in the car cannot recognize objects in the dark or if a pedestrian or another car emerges abruptly. They also won’t operate correctly if a driver stamps on the gas pedal, the ministry said.