AAA Cautions: Not All Automatic Braking Systems Are Alike

While most American believe that automatic braking systems are designed to work without human intervention, not all work that way. The hi-tech braking systems vary in design and performance, according to the automobile club AAA.

While some braking systems slow or stop the vehicle enough to prevent crashes, others slow the vehicle to lessen crash severity, AAA’s latest testing reveals.

Noting that automatic brakes are set to become standard equipment on 99 percent of vehicles by 2022, the AAA safety advocates are warning drivers to be sure they understand their new car technology.

AAA tested systems that are designed to apply the brakes when a driver fails to engage. However, those that are designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by nearly twice that of those designed to slow the car enough to lessen crash severity. While AAA says any reduction in speed offers a safety benefit to drivers, the group warns that automatic braking systems are not all designed to prevent collisions and urges consumers to fully understand system limitations before getting behind the wheel.

“AAA found that two-thirds of Americans familiar with the technology believe that automatic emergency braking systems are designed to avoid crashes without driver intervention,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “The reality is that today’s systems vary greatly in performance, and many are not designed to stop a moving car.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA said it evaluated five 2016 model-year vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking systems for performance within system limitations and in real-world driving scenarios that were designed to push the technology’s limits. Systems were tested and compared based on the capabilities and limitations stated in the owner’s manuals and grouped into two categories — those designed to slow or stop the vehicle enough to prevent crashes, and those designed to slow the vehicle to lessen crash severity.

“Automatic emergency braking systems have the potential to drastically reduce the risk of injury from a crash,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “When traveling at 30 mph, reducing speed by just 10 mph can reduce the energy of crash impact by more than 50 percent.”

After more than 70 trials, AA said its tests reveal:

In addition to the independent testing, AAA surveyed U.S. drivers to understand consumer purchase habits and trust of automatic emergency braking systems. Results reveal:

“When shopping for a new vehicle, AAA recommends considering one equipped with an automatic emergency braking system,” continued Nielsen. “However, with the proliferation of vehicle technology, it’s more important than ever for drivers to fully understand their vehicle’s capabilities and limitations before driving off the dealer lot.”

Automakers representing 99 percent of vehicle sales have committed to making automatic emergency braking systems standard on all new vehicles by 2022. The U.S. Department of Transportation said this voluntary agreement will make the safety feature available on new cars up to three years sooner than could be achieved through the formal regulatory process.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions, which automatic emergency braking systems are designed to mitigate, result in nearly 2,000 fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries annually. Currently, 10 percent of new vehicles have automatic emergency braking as standard equipment, and more than half of new vehicles offer the feature as an option.

AAA’s testing of automatic emergency braking systems was conducted on a closed course at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The testing was designed to build on previous testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Source: AAA