The requirement for new vehicles is to have anti-rollover technology called electronic stability control by the 2012 model year. It will prevent thousands of roadway deaths a year.
The Transportation Department said the technology could save between 5,300 and 9,600 lives annually once stability control is fully deployed into the nation's fleet.
"Like air bags and like seat belts, 10 years down the road we're going to look back and wonder how the ESC technology was ever lived without," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said at the New York International Auto Show.
Electronic stability control senses when a driver may lose control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to help stabilize it and avoid a rollover.
Many vehicles, including sport utility vehicles, already have the technology, and several automakers have outlined plans to make it a standard feature in future cars.
More than 43,000 people are killed annually on the U.S. roadways. Safety advocates view electronic stability control as a major advancement in safety because it holds the potential of reducing rollover deaths.
More than 10,000 people die in rollover deaths a year, even though only 3 percent of crashes involve rollovers.
Congress had required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implement a rule by 2009.