Not All Automated Emergency Braking Systems Are Created Equal

Damage from a rear end car accident

Long before most motorists ride in a self-driving car, they’ll likely drive a vehicle that contains the fundamental building blocks of autonomous technology. Earlier this year, 20 automakers committed to making automated emergency braking a standard feature on every vehicle they sell by 2022, a development that will improve safety on more than 99 percent of vehicles purchased by American car buyers.

But all automated emergency braking systems are not created equal. New research from AAA reveals the design and performance of these potential life-saving systems can vary dramatically, and most consumers don’t understand the nuances in the technology that could mean the difference between lessening the severity of a crash and avoiding one entirely.

Systems intended to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds in testing by nearly twice that of systems designed only to lessen crash severity. AAA found that the former achieved a 79 percent reduction in overall speeds versus 40 percent reductions for mitigation systems.

“With the proliferation of vehicle technology, it’s more important than ever for drivers to fully understand their vehicles’ capabilities and limitations before driving off the dealer lot,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair.

AAA researchers conducted more than 70 trials of the emergency braking systems using five 2016-model vehicles: Honda Civic, Lincoln MKX, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Passat, and Volvo XC90. The testing was conducted on a closed course in Fontana, California, where researchers measured data on vehicle separation, speed, and deceleration in scenarios designed to mirror real-world driving conditions. Their findings add to a growing body of research on automated emergency braking systems, much of which has been conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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A chief difference: the organization’s researchers found that, when traveling at 45 miles per hour and approaching a stationary vehicle, systems designed to prevent crashes reduced speeds by 74 percent and avoided crashes in 40 percent of testing scenarios; by contrast, systems designed only to lessen crash severity only reduced speed by 9 percent overall.

Equally surprising, researchers found that systems designed merely to lessen crash impact successfully avoided crashes all together in one-third of test cases.

Rear-end collisions, which these systems are designed to mitigate and prevent, are responsible for nearly 2,000 traffic fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries each year on American roads, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The influx of automated braking systems could help lower that toll at a time when overall traffic deaths are rising at their fastest pace in decades.

Currently, nine percent of U.S. drivers have cars with automated emergency braking systems, according to AAA. Even before the voluntary agreement goes into effect in 2022, that percentage is expected to grow. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. drivers surveyed told AAA they want automated braking on their next vehicle. Automakers may still need to do a better job educating consumers on the merits of the technology, though—only two in five drivers expect it to work.

from Car and Driver BlogCar and Driver Blog

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