By on June 9, 2017

Front Pedestrian Braking, a new active safety technology available on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and 2016 Cadillac CT6, is one of many safety features tested at General Motors' new Active Safety Test Area at the Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. Image: Jeffrey Sauger/General Motors

There was a time when seat belts were considered unnecessary, reserved as an optional extra for motorists who ventured out onto roadways in a state of white-knuckle fear. What pathetic bags of flesh, many thought, wrapping themselves in a polyester harness because they can’t handle themselves on the road — thinking it will save them from the reckoning of sheet metal and glass.

We know better now. Seat belts are proven life savers and advanced restraint systems are compulsory for both automakers and occupants. That will likely be the path of automatic emergency braking takes as well. Nissan announced Thursday it would make auto braking systems standard on a large portion of 2018 models sold in the United States. Toyota is doing the same. But the technology is not yet ubiquitous, nor has it acquired universal public approval. Many worry it could be too invasive or provide a false sense of invincibility, so it could be a while before AEB becomes expected equipment on all new models. 

Autonomous features, even lower-tier elements like emergency braking, require extensive fine turning and additional hardware to operate effectively. That incurs additional cost — something a lot of automakers don’t want to bake into base models. However, regulators and advocates for vehicular safety are urging companies to adopt the technology wholesale.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates seventeen percent of recently tested vehicles have a crash avoidance system as standard equipment, typically in a European or Japanese luxury vehicle. Meanwhile, domestic automakers are a little less eager to roll out automatic braking.

Ford “has a plan to standardize over time,” according to a statement on Thursday. Currently, automatic braking systems are reserved as options on a handful of Ford and Lincoln models. It will also be available on the F-Series for the 2018 model year. Fiat Chrysler also offers automatic braking as optional equipment with an eventual plan to standardize it.

General Motors provides collision avoidance systems as optional equipment on about two-thirds of its current lineup but has not announced plans to make it standard. “Any time you have a voluntary agreement you have a spectrum of implementation,” Jeff Boyer, GM’s vice president for safety, told Reuters earlier this week. When pressed on a timeline for standard automatic braking, Boyer said, “let’s just say we honor the voluntary commitment.”

The agreement Boyer is referencing is last year’s accord, where twenty automakers made a pact to include AEB systems as standard equipment by 2022. Of course, there is nothing binding about the agreement and many have petitioned the agency to begin the formal regulatory process to mandate the technology. However, NHTSA believes the voluntary agreement is sufficient and could result in faster deployment of the technology.

It doesn’t seem to care how we get there, so long as we do. NHTSA is a serious proponent of the technology, estimating it could eliminate one-fifth of all traffic collisions.  “Do the math. That’s 5 million crashes every year — 20 percent reduction means 1 million less. Those are big numbers,” said former NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind in an interview last year.

While 2022 sounds reasonable, it would require a serious commitment from automakers to see that happen. But it isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibilities. Continental AG, which supplies Nissan with its auto brake systems, says business is looking up. “We see it accelerating,” said Continental’s head of business development Dean McConnell. “It varies. There are some [companies] that are being aggressive” while the rest are holding back.

[Image: General Motors]

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36 Comments on “When Will Automatic Braking Become Standard Equipment?...”


  • avatar
    Joss

    If it’s a Nismo it ain’t getting it [yet.]

  • avatar
    Ermel

    It already is. In European big rigs.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Friggin’ electronic nannies. If I want to hit things, I should be able to hit things! /s

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Speaking of, how do these systems react when your pushing whatever with your bumper? Kinda a pretty big concern I never even thought of.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Hummer – I was thinking that, how will this stuff work if I’m plowing through 2 feet of snow or on a trail with brush and tall grass?

        There are times I’d rather chose to run over a stray cat or squirrel than risk getting hit by the vehicle behind me.

        • 0 avatar
          SirRaoulDuke

          A couple years ago I took out a coyote at 55 MPH, which did a hell of a number on my foglight assembly and bumper. I was on a divided four lane road, with one car behind me following too close (sorry I am the speed limit buddy, but that road is heavily patrolled), and one to my left that I had barely a half car length lead on. I saw the SOB dart out of the corn to the right at top speed, and quickly and intelligently made the decision to hit it, rather than risk a collision with another car. Would auto braking make that same decision? I doubt it.

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        On our Dodge Durango – there’s a button to turn it off.

        I tend to hit it randomly and announce “RAMMING MODE ENGAGED!”.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      “Friggin’ electronic nannies. If I want to hit things, I should be able to hit things! /s”

      Yawn. Perhaps you should be able to drive without these systems. But if you are ever in a crash that would not have happened had the system been active, then you should have the proverbial book thrown at you.

      Insurance void. Fine and points. And…

      I am sick and tired of getting stuck in traffic jams caused by drivers rear ending others. The cumulative damage in inefficiency and time lost by all delayed by these incidents must be massive. It’s time that the consequences of being at fault for such crashes, be factored into these losses that require remedy. Losses that currently the guilty can ignore.

      Still want to drive without the system?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You sound like one of the nannies that’s always pushing nannies. “Severe penalties for failure to comply.” “Resistance is futile. You WILL be assimilated.” “Providing the requested information is voluntary, but if not provided, we will be unable to process your request.”

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Its not great, it is slightly annoying. The worst thing being when cars are turning off the road into a parking lot or something. YOu know you have ample room but the system thinks they are stopping right in front of you.

    That being said, they day it prevents an accident or the day you can avoid hitting some little kid that darts out in front of your car, you will probably quit complaining.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      My son has had a car with it (Toyota iA) for the last year and the only time it has activated was when he encountered some fallen tree branches in a heavy rain storm one night. He thought something was wrong with the car until he saw the branches in front of him.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      Ours kept us from running over a juvenile Bobcat at 1am. Reacted about half a second before we saw it.

  • avatar
    kobo1d

    Like most autonomous car technology, I’m looking forward to this being on my wife and everyone else on the road’s car, but not on my own. Call it Dunning–Kruger, I don’t care.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    It doesn’t matter to me as long as I can tune it or it auto-adjusts to my driving style so that it doesn’t brake or maneuver at some ridiculously long distance or, as said before, in parking lots at super low speeds. A lot of times at highway speeds, I’ll see I am gaining on a vehicle, so I’ll put my signal on to pass, but need to wait. So I just take my foot off of the throttle a bit. I wouldn’t want it to actually brake for me when I don’t need it and when whoever behind me is not expecting it.

    And in parking lots or at low speeds, cars are just moving around very closely to each other and it this would be more of a nuisance than an assist if it was too sensitive.

    • 0 avatar
      HahnZahn

      I have this via EyeSight on my Impreza. It works very well – the speed you are traveling determines the distance at which the emergency braking activates. For high speed, the stopping distance it needs is greater, as you know. Inverse is true for low speeds. I can’t remember if there’s a minimum threshold for the AEB activating, but you can turn it off if there’s reason to. I haven’t yet run into an annoying instance of it activating in the context of a low-speed parking lot – it’s very intelligently tuned. Nor is it a hindrance in that context you mentioned at highway speed.

      I can cite a time that it very likely prevented an accident, when someone yoinked into the following distance I left from the car in front of me and traffic came to a sudden halt. I was already paying attention and moving to brake, but the AEB kicked in even faster. It really exists for those times when you’d have to slam on your brakes to the point that the anti-locking activates; not so much for normal slowing, though it is repurposed in that way for adaptive cruise control.

      • 0 avatar
        newenthusiast

        I don’t have adaptive cruise control, so I can’t speak to that, but what you describe basically means that for me, as a pretty defensive driver, I will probably have no idea its even there. The only hard braking I have ever needed to do in my life has always involved deer and black ice. I no longer live where black ice is a problem, and automatic braking my help with the deer. But how close the deer is when it jumps in the road and physics may mean that a hit is still possible.

        • 0 avatar
          HahnZahn

          Yeah, the deer scenario is an interesting one to imagine. I grew up where that was a problem, but never hit one myself. I’d imagine that if it’s a deer-strike of the sort where one runs out in front of you suddenly, the AEB is probably moot. But I guess it is worth wondering if it’d continue activating the brakes or just let up post-strike. I suspect it doesn’t continue to slam on the brakes. At least with deer strikes, those happen in rural areas, so less likely to have another car following closely.

          With black ice, I don’t think it’d factor at all – that’d still be in the realm of traction control, which has been around for a long time. The cameras/radar that control the AEB just measure distance from objects in front, although maybe I have no idea what’s involved. Never lived where that was a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        If your experience is like mine, you probably know that it’s always best to keep an eye out behind just in case a car cuts you off, and the system grenades the brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      I have an aftermarket Mobileye system. It’s pretty smart. It has the expected long range higher speed collision warning. But it also has a low speed short distance warning that sounds as you close the last few feet before hitting someone. Yet it does not sound warnings in parking lots.

      At the same time, if I have bicycles on a rear rack, they usually trigger the backup sensors. But there is a button to shut off the sensors when this happens. Simple.

  • avatar
    Funky

    My Mazdas (yes, even the 6 which has a manual transmission) have this feature. Also my Volvo V60 has it. My Tacoma does not. I’ve only had it kick-in once. This occurred when I was driving my S60 (I no longer own the S60) in a city neighborhood. The automatic braking system felt that I got too close to the car in front of me in bumper to bumper traffic. Did it help me to avoid a minor collision? I would say no. But, my passengers at the time said yes it did. From my perspective, I haven’t found this technology to be too invasive. And, it’s apparently compatible with manual transmissions (as proven by its availability on my Mazda 6), so I cannot think of a reason it’d be awful to see it become more prolific.

  • avatar
    Joss

    It’s two in the morning and the bum jumps out in front with the squeegee knowing you’ve got automatic braking…

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Well, surely you’d be aiming to brake or swerve regardless. This system won’t stop you from shouting at him and speeding back off.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        How about the carjacker? Need the ability to override, so I can drive right through him/her.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          How frequent is carjacking and how often is it performed by taking a position in front of a moving car?

          • 0 avatar
            brn

            If cars won’t let you drive through carjackers, standing in front of a car will become SOP for carjackers.

            They don’t do it now, because it’s unsafe for them.

            I’m not saying I don’t want the system. I just want the ability to bypass it, if the situation calls for it.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Just two days ago, I had entered an intersection on the green light, and waited for a left turn. The light changed, I paused to see if anyone oncoming was going to blow through the red light. It appeared to me that a large(non-semi) truck was stopping and I moved to clear the intersection with my left turn. The truck blew his horn and ran the red at slow speed. It was not an extremely close call, but what if the auto braking that my 2016 does not have, that is standard on my model as of this year had intervened right at that moment, and brought me to a stop in front of the oncoming truck (who I assume was unable to stop in time for the red light) ?

  • avatar
    MBella

    These systems are becoming very double edged swords for manufacturers. People don’t pay​ enough attention to their surroundings and then don’t realize why the car gives them a warning message or auto brakes. We get calls daily. We also had a customer who admitted that a post was visible in her backup camera, and her parking sensors where beeping, but backed into the post anyway because the car was supposed to stop by itself. The system isn’t designed to work at parking lot speeds and doesn’t work in reverse.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Some automakers–Infiniti is one–do offer AEB systems that also work when the vehicle is moving in reverse.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I still wouldn’t recommend depending on the technology to stop your vehicle if your eyes and ears are telling you to stop.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          There are people who will do just that – depend on technology they don’t understand to absolve them of any responsibility to provide human input.

          Remember the woman who set the cruise control on her Ford motorhome and went back to make a sandwich? When the vehicle went into a ditch, she sued Ford for not telling her the cruise control doesn’t steer the vehicle, and won. Judges and juries don’t understand technology either.

          Chances are, some will assume a vehicle with automatic braking will even steer around trouble on its own. Whether they should have driver’s licenses, or even be declared wards of the state (there’s probably too many of them for that), is another matter.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    Carjacking just got easier?


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