Car Care: AEB, the superhero on our roads
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We hear plenty about crashes that happen on our roads. What we don’t get any visibility on are those that could have happened, but didn’t.
Over the past two or three decades, car makers have spent countless millions of dollars on better protecting occupants in the event of a crash. While that remains a high priority, part of the focus is on preventing crashes from ever happening.
That technology is now appearing in some new cars — as standard for a few — is autonomous emergency braking (AEB). In short, what this tech does is stop the car without any input from the driver if sensors pick up clues that things are about to go horribly wrong.
After one of our AA Motoring team members was involved in a recent crash that involved another driver trying to avoid a nose to tail, it started us all thinking – what if the car at fault had the latest safety technology? Could the crash have been prevented by warning the driver that the traffic in front was stopping? It might have stopped him from swerving into the side of another vehicle.
AEB can alert the driver about danger and help to engage maximum braking capacity.
Initially, the system issues visual and audible warnings to the driver and, if the driver doesn’t react and the situation becomes critical, the car will automatically brake with no human involvement.
Typically, AEB comes in three categories:
Low speed system (city) – this works at lower speeds on the city streets to detect other vehicles in front of your car to prevent crashes and non-life threatening injuries such as whiplash.
Higher speed system (interurban) – this scans up to 200 metres ahead using long range radar at higher speeds.
Pedestrian system – this detects pedestrian movement in relation to the path of the vehicle, helping to determine the risk of collision.
Front collision warning systems can vary between different manufacturers and, in some cases, even the different models.
Some vehicles also feature two or more AEB systems.
When combined with adaptive cruise control, AEB systems make motorway driving effortless, and it’s great for peak traffic.
Once you’ve set the following distance — most cars will offer three distances to choose from — the car does the rest to maintain a safe presence behind the car in front.
We often see drivers switching lanes and squeezing into small gaps between cars, but the technology in cars can now sense this and automatically slows to maintain the safe following distance set.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Programme is a fan of this technology. In 2013 it revealed data showing AEB can reduce crashes by 27 per cent and, as a result, wants it to be a mandatory requirement for all new vehicles sold in New Zealand.
If your car is equipped with AEB and traffic grinds to a sudden halt, you might hear or see the warning. In some cases, the brakes may be applied before you even get a chance to react yourself.
In most cases, the car is faster than the foot and AEB has probably been quite the hero in avoiding nose-to-tail crashes.