Automatic crash braking systems aren't all the same, says AAA

August 26, 2016

As automakers race to make automatic emergency braking standard in more new cars, the nation's largest automobile owners club says not all systems are designed the same.

In controlled testing, AAA announced this week that different automatic emergency braking systems in cars could help prevent crashes—but with varying rates of effectiveness.

READ MORE: Feds have a three-point plan for automatic emergency braking rollout

“When shopping for a new vehicle, AAA recommends considering one equipped with an automatic emergency braking system,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a statement. “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.”

Most importantly, AAA noted that two different types of automatic emergency braking systems were available in cars today: systems designed to avoid crashes, and systems designed to lessen severity of crashes.

Automatic Emergency Braking graphic

Automatic Emergency Braking graphic

Systems designed to avoid crashes reduced vehicle speeds by twice that of systems designed to reduce severity of impact, AAA concluded. In crashes with closing speeds lower than 30 mph, systems designed to avoid crashes were successful 60 percent of the time. Interestingly, systems only designed to reduce impact completely avoided crashes one-third of the time. 

The results underscore a new, but growing, perception that automatic emergency braking systems don't require human interaction.

Two-thirds of Americans familiar with the technology believe it's a substitute for an attentive driver.

“The reality is that today’s systems vary greatly in performance, and many are not designed to stop a moving car," Nielsen said in a statement. 

This year, Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Kia, Maserati, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo announced that they would make automatic emergency braking standard on their new cars by 2022.

According to AAA, 1,966 deaths were caused by rear-end collisions in 2014.

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