Automatic Emergency Brakes (”AEB”) are going to be standard features in most American cars in the near future. Many, if not most, U.S. car makers have agreed with the federal government to provide AEB systems in all their models, just like they provide safety belts, and brake lights, and car horns. However, not all car manufacturers are joining the effort – Honda, for instance, isn’t going to put AEBs in every Civic that comes on its line.
And maybe that’s because Honda has already had the experience of having to recall vehicles with automatic emergency brake systems because the gizmos were slamming on the brakes willy-nilly.
What is Automatic Emergency Braking?
AEB is a safety feature that the federal government hopes will reduce the number of traffic accidents and motor vehicle fatalities in this country. It’s a gizmo that continuously monitors the speed of the vehicle and the distance of the vehicle to other cars. The gizmo works through a network of computerized sensors and radar or laser beams, etc., to calculate things like MPH and car lengths between vehicles (footage).
There are different versions; more advanced AEBs can distinguish cars and minivans as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, and road hazards. Basic AEBs are aware of traffic in front of the moving vehicle and are designed to prevent the vehicle from rear-ending a car in front of it.
This devices cannot be placed into existing vehicles; they must be installed during the build itself. No retrofitting here.
They go by different names, depending upon the car company. Buy a Ford, and the AEB in your vehicle is described as a “Active City Stop.” Choose a Lexus and you’ll get a “Pre-collision Safety System with Brake Assist.”
Right now, it’s reported that 27% of the vehicles driven on American roads have AEB systems. By having automatic emergency brakes as standard features in new car models, the goal is to increase this percentage and in doing so, decrease the number of accidents, specifically rear end collisions.
Rear End Collisions Are Major Cause of Car Crash Injuries and Traffic Deaths
It’s a given that many car crashes here in Indiana and Illinois and the rest of the country are those where there has been a rear-end crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions are the most common type of motor vehicle accident: statistics show 29% of all car accidents are rear-end collisions (defined as the front vehicle stopped or moving very slowly and the rear car crashing into that vehicle).
Rear-end crashes can cause minor injuries; for example, whiplash injuries happen most often in a rear-end collision according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. However, a significant number of rear-end collisions result in serious injury to accident victims as well as death. Many may remember the horrific rear-end crash last year in Muncie, where six people were seriously injured in the two-car crash, and a four-year-old little girl perished in the accident.
Will These Automatic Braking Systems Really Mean Less Rear End Accidents? Maybe.
It sounds good, doesn’t it? Your car will brake for you — or for the car that you see barreling down toward you in your rear-view mirror — in the event that the driver cannot stop or has made a mistake in how much time he has to brake before hitting you. Of course that would be wonderful: to protect people from these car crashes.
Thing is, these gizmos are mechanized devices and products fail. Sometimes they are defective in design. Sometimes the individual unit malfunctions.
We’ve already seen how red light cameras at intersections were touted as being a great device to fight against rear-end collisions. Turned out that these red light cameras actually caused MORE rear end accidents, not less. In one study, there was a 63% increase in rear-end collisions after red-light cameras were installed at intersections.
Honda’s recall of its AEB devices, an added feature already available on its cars, is a warning here.
Another one: Google’s self-driven cars. These are the new prototypes that are being tested on American roads now — and these aren’t cars with just automatic brakes, they’re cars with automatic EVERYTHING. And they’re still involved in lots of rear end collisions.
Bottom line, human error may cause rear-end collisions. But that doesn’t mean that these gizmos won’t cause rear-end collisions, too.
And then, will the insurer for the driver finger-point at the car maker and the manufacturer of the AEB device and argue there’s no negligence upon which to base an insurance claim with the driver but instead a products liability lawsuit against the car maker? That’s a bigger and more difficult case for the injury victim.