Braking Bad: Automatic Emergency Braking Struggles When Needed Most

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In full transparency, the following is a press release from AAA Northeast. (AAA photo)


FRAMINGHAM – As of September 1, 2022, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) is standard equipment in most new cars sold in the United States.

Over the years, Automatic Emergency Braking has successfully stemmed rear-end crashes, which often result in injuries, property damage, and even fatalities.

But AAA wanted to know if the latest generation of Automatic Emergency Braking can handle higher speeds and detect moving vehicles in its path at intersections. It struggled with the former and failed with the latter.

“Automatic Emergency Braking does well at tackling the limited task it was designed to do. Unfortunately, regulator’s slow-speed crash standards don’t reflect the speed on the roads where most injuries occur,” said John Paul, AAA Northeast Car Doctor. “Testing requirements for this technology should be updated to handle faster, more realistic speeds and scenarios with the greatest safety benefit for drivers, and consumers must know that these systems are very useful but not infallible.”

The Issue

Automatic Emergency Braking uses forward-facing cameras and other sensors to automatically tell the car to apply the brakes when a crash is imminent. It has reduced rear-end crashes at slower speeds, and the technology has been refined over the years with upgraded hardware and software.But two of the most common deadly crashes at intersections are T-bones and left turns in front of oncoming vehicles. From 2016 to 2020, these two types accounted for 39.2% of total fatalities in crashes involving two passenger vehicles. during which the striking vehicle did not lose traction or leave the roadway before the collision.

The Results

           At 30 mph, Automatic Emergency Braking prevented a rear-end collision in 17 of 20 test runs, or 85 percent. In the test runs that resulted in a crash, the impact speed was reduced by 86 percent. But, at 40 mph, Automatic Emergency Braking prevented crashes in only 6 of 20 test runs, or 30 percent. For test runs that resulted in a crash, impact speed was reduced by 62 percent. In both the T-bone and left turn in front of an oncoming vehicle tests, crashes occurred 100 percent of the time as AEB failed to slow the vehicle and avoid the crash.

            Beginning September this year, 20 automakers representing nearly the entire U.S. market pledged to make Automatic Emergency Braking standard equipment on all their new vehicles.

AAA strongly urges automakers and regulators to improve system design and test procedures so Automatic Emergency Braking can more effectively handle the types of crashes that result in injuries and fatalities. Drivers must recognize the limitations of AEB and remain engaged when behind the wheel.

AAA tested four vehicles, all 2022 models: the Chevrolet Equinox LT with “Chevy Safety Assist,” the Ford Explorer XLT with “Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking,” the Honda CR-V Touring with “Honda Sensing,” and the Toyota RAV4 LE with “Toyota Sensing.”


AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 70 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York, providing more than 6 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.


email: call or text at 508-315-7176

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