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August 24, 2016
Hit The Brakes: Not All Self-Braking Cars Designed to Stop

AAA Tests Reveal Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Vary Significantly

New test results from AAA reveal that automatic emergency braking systems vary widely in design and performance.

While the safety technology will soon be standard equipment on 99 percent of vehicles, AAA is advising consumers to fully understand system limitation before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle equipped with the technology.

All the systems tested by AAA are designed to apply the brakes when a driver fails to engage; however, those that are designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by nearly twice that of those designed to lessen crash severity. While not all systems are designed to avoid a collision, AAA notes that any reduction in speed offers a significant safety benefit to vehicle occupants.

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA evaluated five 2016 model-year vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking systems for performance within system limitations and in real-world driving scenarios that were designed to push the technology’s limits. Systems were tested and compared based on the capabilities and limitations stated in the owner’s manuals and grouped into two categories -- those designed to slow or stop the vehicle enough to prevent crashes, and those designed to slow the vehicle to lessen crash severity. After more than 70 trials, tests reveal:


  • In terms of overall speed reduction, the systems designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by twice that of systems that are designed to only lessen crash severity (79 percent speed reduction vs. 40 percent speed reduction).
  • With speed differentials of under 30 mph, systems designed to prevent crashes successfully avoided collisions in 60 percent of test scenarios. Surprisingly, the systems designed to only lessen crash severity were able to completely avoid crashes in nearly one-third (33 percent) of test scenarios.
  • When pushed beyond stated system limitations and proposed federal requirements, the variation among systems became more pronounced. When traveling at 45 mph and approaching a static vehicle, the systems designed to prevent crashes reduced speeds by 74 percent overall and avoided crashes in 40 percent of scenarios. In contrast, systems designed to lessen crash severity were only able to reduce vehicle speed by 9 percent overall.
In addition to the independent testing, AAA surveyed U.S. drivers to understand consumer purchase habits and trust of automatic emergency braking systems. Results reveal:
  • Nine percent of U.S. drivers currently have automatic emergency braking on their vehicle.
  • Nearly 40 percent of U.S. drivers want automatic emergency braking on their next vehicle. Men are more likely to want an automatic emergency braking system in their next vehicle (42 percent) than female drivers (35 percent).
  • Two out of five U.S. drivers trust automatic emergency braking to work. Drivers who currently own a vehicle equipped with automatic emergency braking system are more likely to trust it to work (71 percent) compared to drivers that have not experienced the technology (41 percent).
 “Automatic braking is an important technology to consider when shopping for a new vehicle,” said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “But, as with all safety technology, a thorough understanding of its capabilities and limitations is critical. And in no case should the technology be viewed as a replacement for a fully-engaged driver.”

For its potential to reduce crash severity, 22 automakers representing 99 percent of vehicle sales have committed to making automatic emergency braking systems standard on all new vehicles by 2022. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions, which automatic emergency braking systems are designed to mitigate, result in nearly 2,000 fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries annually.



Gene LaDoucer
phone: 701.893.3759
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 55 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.

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