Starting in 2014, the Euro NCAP will only bestow its coveted five-star safety rating on cars that are equipped with an Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system.
AEB systems typically use a host of sensors and radars to scan the road ahead. When an object such as a pedestrian or a stopped car is detected, the system warns the driver and independently applies the the car's full braking power if it decides that a collision is imminent.
A study published earlier this week by the Euro NCAP shows that AEB systems have the potential to reduce accidents by about 27 percent, which could prevent 8,000 fatalities on European roads each year.
The decision to make AEB a deciding factor in the organism's safety rating is part of a much broader goal.
"A faster penetration of these technologies into new cars will make it more realistic for the European Union to reach its target to cut road deaths by 50 percent by 2020," said Michiel van Ratingen, the Secretary General of Euro NCAP.
Today, AEB is far from democratized in the European auto industry. The Euro NCAP's study shows that 79 percent of new cars cannot be ordered with AEB, and that 66 percent of manufacturers do not offer the system at all. Premium brands like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Infiniti are said to be the leaders in the technology.
The Euro NCAP made a similar decision in late 2008 when it announced that a year later, only cars equipped with ESP would be considered for a five-star rating.