Automatic Brakes to Be Standard on New Cars Per Federal Government: Will This Reduce Crashes or Create Accidents?

Automatic Brakes to Be Standard on New Cars Per Federal Government: Will This Reduce Crashes or Create Accidents?

Today, the federal government confirmed that automatic emergency braking systems are soon going to be a standard feature on most American vehicles. That’s right: they will be included in new models right alongside other safety features that are placed in every vehicle like safety belts, car horns, and steering wheel air bags.

The following car makers have agreed to this, although there’s no date certain on when new cars will have “automatic emergency braking” (AEB) — rest assured it’s not going to be in the 2016 or 2017 models:

General Motors,
Mercedes Benz,
Volkswagen, and

From the news release from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration:

“We are entering a new era of vehicle safety, focused on preventing crashes from ever occurring, rather than just protecting occupants when crashes happen,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “But if technologies such as automatic emergency braking are only available as options or on the most expensive models, too few Americans will see the benefits of this new era. These 10 companies are committing to making AEB available to all new-car buyers.”

Why Require Automatic Brakes on Cars?

AEB is promoted as a safety feature that will help save lives because it is said to decrease the number of motor vehicle accidents. Why? It’s argued that automatic brakes are better judges of when a car needs to brake than human beings and that AEB will do a better job because the system removes driver error.

Explains the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Adrian Lund: “The evidence is mounting that AEB is making a difference. Most crashes involve driver error. This technology can compensate for the mistakes every driver makes because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted.”

Targeting Rear End Collisions

There is one particular type of car crash that the AEB is targeting: rear end accidents. The Department of Transportation argues that this new gizmo will lower the number of rear-end collisions because the AEB sensors will work to brake the car in time to prevent a collision, and do so better than human drivers.

Of course, rear end crashes are an important type of car crash to try and limit here in Indiana and Illinois as well as the rest of the country. From minor fender benders at a traffic light to major rear end collisions involving several vehicles (in a pile up) or rear end crashes at high speeds with deaths resulting from the impact, rear end accidents are commonplace.

In fact, as far back as 2000, NHTSA was tallying the numbers and finding that rear end accidents (where the front of one vehicle collides into the rear of the vehicle in front of it) made up around one-third of all motor vehicle accidents that year (29.7%) and that rear end collisions were responsible for 30% of all accident victim injuries that year.

The roads haven’t become safer for drivers since 2000, and rear end collisions are a real danger for anyone driving on American roads (especially in places like Indiana and Illinois in the winter time, where skidding on slippery roads only adds to the problem).

Is Automation the Answer?

Not all car makers are going along with this requirement, however. Honda, for instance, will offer the AEB as an added feature, but so far there’s no promise from Honda, Fiat Chrysler, or Nissan to put AEBs as standard features in every Civic, Accord, Saturn, etc., in future model years.

Right now, removing the human driver from the equation to replace him or her with an automated sensor and the override power to slam on the brakes isn’t seen as a great idea by everyone.

Honda, for instance, has already recalled 5000 of its cars with AEB systems because the automatic braking systems were slamming on the brakes without reason and without warning. 

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