We’ve been hearing a lot about autonomous (self-driving) vehicles lately, and while the technology is well within reach the reality of becoming little more than passengers in our own vehicles is still a long way off. However, federal regulators believe that some forms of vehicle automation are essential for improving safety sooner than later and it looks like auto manufacturers agree.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a deal with 20 automotive manufacturers to install Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems in all new vehicles by 2022. The agreement includes big names like Ford, GM, Volkswagen and many others and in effect means that over 99% of new cars will feature AEB technology beginning in 2022. The unprecedented cooperative efforts of manufacturers and government regulators means AEB will get to the marketplace years earlier than it would have had it gone through traditional regulatory processes.
The idea gained momentum after a 2012 study determined that roughly 50% of the 1.7 million rear-end crashed that happened in 2011 could have been alleviated or prevented if the vehicles involved had been equipped with a combination of Forward Collision Warning, Crash Imminent Braking and Dynamic Brake Support. According to the report those 1.7 million crashes resulted in $47 billion in damages, thousands of injuries and many deaths. The potential benefits of AEB are obviously significant.
What Is AEB?
AEB incorporates a variety of technologies in various combinations but the basic premise can be defined as follows:
- Autonomous or Automatic: The system acts independently of the driver to avoid or mitigate collisions.
- Emergency: The system intervenes only in an emergency situation.
- Braking: The system attempts to avoid the collision by applying the brakes.
AEB systems help to avoid accidents by warning drivers about potentially critical situations, and they’re designed to help reduce the severity of crashes that cannot be avoided by reducing the speed of the vehicle.
Most AEB systems use radar, camera and/or LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to identify potential collisions. This information is combined with what the car knows about its own speed and direction to determine if a critical situation is developing. If a probable collision is detected, AEB systems will first warn the driver that action is needed. If no action is taken by the driver and a collision is still expected, the system will fully or incrementally apply the brakes. Either way, the aim is to reduce vehicle speed and limit the force of the impact. Some systems deactivate immediately when they detect the driver taking avoidance action. AEB is not, however, intended to replace a fully attentive, fully engaged driver and is in no way a substitute for safe driving.
A few makes and models already have AEB installed and you should expect to see more vehicles with this tech before 2022. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says that the AEB deal is a win-win for both consumers and highway safety because it will prevent upwards of 12,000 injuries and/or deaths every year. AEB systems will likely add to vehicle costs but American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel said the systems are likely to lower insurance premiums and compel insurers to offer discounts to drivers with AEB installed in their vehicles.