There is no doubt that technology is changing the automotive industry. While we are still a few years away from being able to buy a completely self-driving car from a dealer, advances in automation and driver assistance technology have made new vehicles smarter – and safer – than ever before.
And there is one safety feature in particular that has generated a lot of discussion lately: automatic emergency braking (AEB). It has been pointed out by some as one of the most important developments in car safety since the invention of the seat belt. But what exactly is AEB, and how does it work? Keep reading to find out.
What is an automatic emergency brake?
Automatic emergency braking is a vehicle safety system that is designed to detect an impending collision and activate the car̵7;s brakes automatically. By eliminating the human reaction time during braking, an AEB system can help reduce the likelihood of a collision, or at least reduce the severity of the collision.
Each AEB system can detect an oncoming vehicle and respond accordingly. But many can also brake for pedestrians, cyclists or a deer on the road and help you safely get your vehicle to stop if you do not step on the brake pedal in time.
See also: How to avoid hitting a deer
How does automatic emergency braking work?
AEB systems can vary depending on the car manufacturer. But in general it works like this:
- Sensors “see”: The system uses a series of sensors or cameras – or a combination of both – to detect a possible forward collision. This can be a combination of radar, lasers or video data.
- Software “thinks”: Software in your car estimates the risk of a crash. This is based on several data points, including the car’s speed and its distance from surrounding objects.
- Your brakes respond: If the distance between your vehicle and another object suddenly decreases, the AEB system will automatically brake.
How does automatic emergency braking improve driver safety?
By removing a driver’s reaction time from the brake equation, AEB systems can significantly reduce the likelihood of a collision. With the growing proliferation of new cars equipped with AEB systems, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that the technology will prevent 28,000 crashes by 2025.
Are there different types of automatic emergency brakes?
Not all AEB systems are created equal. There are some differences, including:
- Low Speed AEB: Some automatic emergency brakes only work at lower speeds (usually below 55 miles per hour). These systems are designed to prevent collisions in parking lots and in heavy city traffic, but they will not be engaged when driving at highway speeds.
- Full speed AEB: As the name suggests, these AEB systems will operate at highway speeds. They have advanced sensors that allow the vehicle’s computer to see further down the road, allowing the system to slow down your vehicle as you travel at speeds over 55 miles per hour.
- Reverse AEB: Reverse AEB systems come into play when you back up. This feature helps prevent low-speed collisions when reversing from a parking lot or driveway.
- Pedestrian detection: In addition to helping you avoid collisions with other vehicles, these AEB systems also look out for pedestrians and cyclists who may be traveling on your road.
Is automatic emergency braking mandatory for new cars?
Unlike safety features such as seat belts, airbags and spare cameras, the federal government does not legally require all new vehicles to be equipped with AEB. However, this has not prevented organizations such as the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from advocating its widespread use.
In fact, according to NHTSA, 20 of the world’s largest car manufacturers have already committed to making the system a standard feature on all vehicles by September 2022, covering more than 99% of the US car market.
See also: Top 12 high-tech car safety upgrades to consider
Can you turn off the automatic emergency brake?
Since most new vehicles are equipped with AEB, you may be wondering if there is a way to shut down the system. The answer: yes, almost all vehicles allow you to deactivate the AEB after the car has been started.
Some also allow you to change the settings in the system, so you can adjust the sensitivity for when the brakes are activated automatically.
Are there any disadvantages to automatic emergency braking?
We have already stated that AEB systems can significantly improve your road safety, so the advantages definitely outweigh all the disadvantages. But these systems are not 100% accurate when it comes to predicting an impending collision.
For example: If your car’s AEB system detects a false positive, it may hit the brake unnecessarily, making you susceptible to causing a rear-end collision. On the other hand, if there is an error or a bug in the system, you may not find out until it is too late.
For this reason, it is important not to become dependent on vehicle safety systems such as AEB. Keep in mind that these features may offer an extra layer of protection, but they are not an excuse to be complacent about safe driving.
See also: Drowsy driving: is it really that bad?
What about automatic emergency brakes?
It’s true. In recent years, some car manufacturers have issued recalls for their AEB systems.
In most cases, these recalls have addressed the two scenarios described above (using the brakes unnecessarily or not activating them when needed). To ensure that your AEB system works properly, it is important to regularly check for recalls and to know what to do if your car is affected.
See also: What to do if your car is affected by a recall
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