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AAA taps the brakes on AEB systems in new cars

Posted 9/30/22

As of Sept. 1, automatic emergency braking is standard equipment in most new cars sold in the United States.

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AAA taps the brakes on AEB systems in new cars

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UTICA — As of Sept. 1, automatic emergency braking (AEB) is standard equipment in most new cars sold in the United States. Over the years, AEB 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 AEB can handle higher speeds and detect moving vehicles in its path at intersections.

According to a new study by AAA, the new AEB technology struggled with the higher speeds and failed with moving vehicles at intersections.

“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, of AAA Northeast. “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

AEB 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.

The results

At 30 mph, AEB prevented a rear-end collision in 17 of 20 test runs, or 85%. In the test runs that resulted in a crash, the impact speed was reduced by 86%.

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

Beginning this month, 20 automakers representing nearly the entire U.S. market pledged to make AEB standard equipment on all their new vehicles.

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