Home » Your Automatic Emergency Braking System Might Be Worse Than You Thought

Your Automatic Emergency Braking System Might Be Worse Than You Thought

Aeb Testing Results Ts
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One of the most terrifying experiences you can have in a car is being a ride-share passenger with a driver who relies on automatic emergency braking to save their bacon. While they definitely help reduce collision damage, enthusiasts know these systems can be flawed in the real world, and now we have better proof. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has revised its automatic emergency braking testing procedure, and it turns out that some automatic emergency braking systems only work consistently at rather low speeds.

See, the previous automatic emergency braking test standards were laughably inadequate. See, the old tests only used a car-shaped target, and only occurred at speeds of 12 and 25 mph. That’s not even close to arterial roadway speed! The IIHS has finally boosted testing speeds to 31, 37, and 43 mph, which seem like speeds people actually drive at on main roads. In addition, two new obstacles are used to augment the fake car — a fake motorcycle and a real semi trailer. Hey, crashing into the back of a trailer yields gnarly results, and motorcyclists almost always come off worse than cars in collisions.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Mind you, testing with the semi-trailer is only a test of alert systems, because crashing a car into a semi-trailer would hurt. Seems like a foam semi is needed to make this complete, but improvements are improvements. Oh, and in case you were wondering, an alert 2.1 seconds before potential impact is needed to score “Good” in this test.

Unsurprisingly, some vehicles did better than others under this revised criteria. The Subaru Forester gave an early warning, came to a halt behind the stopped fake car at every speed, and avoided the motorcycle in every test save for the 43 mph one, in which it shaved off 30 mph. It was the only compact crossover tested to earn top marks.

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Screenshot 2024 04 25 At 4.45.17 pm

One level down, at the “Acceptable” rating tier, sits the Honda CR-V. It didn’t come to a complete stop in every test with the car and motorcycle, and the IIHS noted that it “failed to slow consistently in the 43 mph trials with the motorcycle target.” In short, the automatic emergency braking in the CR-V might keep your front bumper intact, but don’t count on it consistently.

IIHS crossover automatic emergency braking test

Of greater concern is the Chevrolet Equinox, which received a poor rating. As per the institute: “With the passenger car target, it slowed modestly in the 31 mph tests, and with the motorcycle target it barely reduced speed at all.” Hold on. What does “slowed modestly” mean, and if other systems can stop a car completely from 31 mph when a stopped car’s detected ahead, why can’t the one in the Equinox? The Chevrolet Equinox is one of four crossovers to earn a “Poor” rating for automatic emergency braking, the other three being the Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Volkswagen Taos.

Ford Escape Automatic Emergency Braking

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While automatic emergency braking may limit collision damage, it’s not a parachute. It’s not to be relied on as an invisible save-me, and it’s no substitute for proper attention. Vehicles driven attentively have an effective form of collision avoidance called a pair of eyes, and if more people actually used theirs, the road would be a better place.

(Photo credits: IIHS, All Out Action/YouTube)

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Ross Fuller
Ross Fuller
9 days ago

auto-braker, as i call it, is one of the first things i disable when i drive new vehicles; luckily, no such thing exists in the old cars i own myself – disabling all the driver assist “features” feels like some sort of missile launch-abort sequence.

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
27 days ago

I’m confused by the very first sentence. Drivers who rely on emergency braking? Are there people out there who use the emergency braking like some kind of autopilot, to use on purpose, all the time?

Black Peter
Black Peter
26 days ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

I mean, you have met people, haven’t you?

Framed
Framed
27 days ago

I forget where I heard this, but the way to make everyone drive much safer is to remove all safety equipment and install a large spike in the middle of the steering wheel!

Cerberus
Cerberus
27 days ago
Reply to  Framed

They had that in the ’50s, but a lot of people still died.

AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
26 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Relevant: Sammy Davis Jr. lost his eye to the bullet-shaped center cover on his ’54 Caddy’s steering wheel.

Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
28 days ago

“it’s no substitute for proper attention”
These so-called “safety features” are a rabbit hole and every sane person knows where it leads; needless deaths and a legal excuse to blame someone/thing else for their inattention.
We all know, it *will* be used as a driving substitute; an excuse to put on make-up or shave*, type up an office memo, or just surf online.
It’s hard to blame people when corporations like Chevrolet are advertising hands-free driving WHILE TOWING and calling it “freedom”.

*Note: Last week I watched a man blow through a 4way stop without slowing. Electric razor in one hand, rear-view mirror in the other. No hands on the wheel. Totally oblivious.

Andrew M
Andrew M
29 days ago

AEB on the ID.4 is pretty garbage. On the one hand, it’s pretty much blind to coming up on stopped traffic from highway speeds. On the other hand, on some days it thinks the half-inch lip up into the garage is an obstacle that justifies slamming on the brakes when backing in.

Church
Church
29 days ago

Your Automatic Emergency Braking System Might Be Worse Than You Thought

I have almost no respect for it, so I don’t see how that’s possible.

George Millwood
George Millwood
29 days ago

Had a rental Volvo in the UK where the AEB worked impeccably.

Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
29 days ago

My XC60’s is a crapshoot – has gone off for random stuff a handful of times, usually in town where it’s a minor scare… but happened on the parkway two times and it’s no fun at all there.

Maybe/maybe not to its credit, I haven’t crashed into anything with it. Then again I haven’t crashed into anything in front of me in general I think – so, causation vs correlation and all that makes me believe these things are a gimmick until they get a lot more accurate than they’re currently at.

Ben
Ben
29 days ago

My (admittedly limited) experience with these systems has been a dozen or so bogus activations due to things like changes in angle of the road, weeds growing next to a parking lot, or the system misjudging the distance when the car in front is pulling away. No legitimate activations.

It’s an idea that sounds good in theory but is surprisingly difficult to implement well (if this sounds familiar it’s because you’ve read any article about AVs here).

Cerberus
Cerberus
29 days ago

Just proves what I’ve been saying since I first had to drive a vehicle with this lazy moron-enabling tech.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
29 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Bingo. Stupid people think tech will save them from themselves. Smart people realize it is just a last resort emergency backup to an attentive driver. Unfortunately smart people are rare.

Dodd Lives
Dodd Lives
29 days ago

I don’t want to come off as a Luddite, but has is there any respectable research out there to determine whether these systems actually reduce the incidence of collisions, or if they simply result in drivers relying on them and not paying adequate attention? It would need to be real-world data – from insurance companies, maybe – not laboratory testing.

I’ve had a daily driver with automatic emergency braking for two years now. I’ve yet to have the system engage, although I have gotten proximity warnings a couple of times.

Der Foo
Der Foo
29 days ago

Had an older Chevy Traverse engage the brakes regularly on sweeping roads with an intersection. The road had a dedicated left turn lane. I’d be traveling in the left lane and the road would curve to the right. The vehicle would detect the line of cars in the left turn lane directly ahead of me as I approached the intersection, but couldn’t ‘comprehend’ that they were in the next lane over (to the left). Sum beech tried it’s best to get me rear ended on that 50 MPH road. Ended up turning it off. The odds were greater than I’d get rear ended than me rear ending someone else. There were lots of those curvy ‘parkway’ roads where I live.

05LGT
05LGT
29 days ago

For a look at modern UI vs expectations, watch HAL9000 played by Alexa (not the clips name, but Google will find it)

Der Foo
Der Foo
29 days ago

Having recently gotten a new Outback, I have already grown tired of the automatic reverse braking. Damn thing engages and does it very hard. My driveway is relatively flat except for the gutter along the street and the slightly rounded shape of the street. Got tired of having my head bounce off the headrest. RAB is now turned off.

The forward collision warning beeps occasionally, but only when there seems to be a legit event that it thinks I need to know about. Haven’t had the collision braking kick in, yet.

I’ve driven an older Honda and had the automatic braking engage for no apparent reason. Ended up with a lower trim level to omit that system. Honda is now being investigated for unexpected braking events by the NTSB.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
28 days ago
Reply to  Der Foo

Why is there a NTSB and a NHTSA? Do we really need both?

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
28 days ago

This Honda investigation actually is being conducted by NHTSA. The NTSB has a different role; investigating air crashes and the bridge collapse in Baltimore are examples.

Der Foo
Der Foo
26 days ago
Reply to  DONALD FOLEY

Thanks for the correction. It is the NHTSA, not the NTSB.

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
29 days ago

I really liked the Toyota safety package from a recent rental, a 2024 Toyota Prius. Even if you didn’t have cruise control active, the car will keep a decent distance from the car in front of you and adjust it braking by itself, you only had to press the brake below 10mph ish. The lane assist using cruise control was much better than my Polestar that seems nervous and always trying to take exits and such, this Toyota was dead solid in between lanes, the car will actually slow down when taking curves and display you that information.

The Chrysler Pacifica or Chevy Bolt I have are meh, sometimes they don’t even assist you coming back to your lane or just scream at you when the car in front of you is braking but don’t react properly. Not just scream, do something, brake damn it lol

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
29 days ago

This issue doesn’t concern me that much because I pay attention when driving. The bigger issue about these systems is the phantom braking… braking when they don’t need to.

And for that reason, if I have a vehicle with this feature, I will most likely just turn it off.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
29 days ago

It should concern you, because you can still very much be hit by someone that isn’t paying attention.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
29 days ago

My wife’s Forester just about has an aneurysm every time I drive because I don’t rely on it telling me how to stay in a lane or when to brake.

I hate the emergency braking system, it’s wildly inconsistent and one time it even jammed on the brakes on an open road for a split second which scared the hell out of me. I’d rather turn it off and, ya know, pay attention like you’re supposed to?

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
29 days ago
Reply to  Cool Dave

I’ve found Subaru’s emergency braking to really only be intrusive when someone cuts abruptly in front of you, whereby it then assumes the world has ended and you need to toss out the anchor.

In normal driving, however, the Subaru system seems to be pretty mild though it’s lane-keep really doesn’t seem to like when lane markings disappear and/or reappear (from wear, construction, or whatever). I’ve never had it apply the brakes on me on an open road.

I leave the nanny systems on for the most part since I’m content to have a backup to me paying attention.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
29 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Even the fact that there’s inconsistency between your experiences tells me these things are underbaked. This is a whole new way of interacting with a car, and it’s a roll of the dice to find out if where you are on the mild-to-aneurysm spectrum of responses.

We all have mental models for brakes, steering, acceleration, so that even when they’re different between vehicles, we have a decent set of expectations. With these systems, there’s no feedback until it’s too late, or too early, or really at all.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
29 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Honestly, it’s more concerning that for something so “basic” that we’re still entertaining Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” on actual roads.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
29 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

No shit right? My favorite was the Hummer being recalled because the brake lights didn’t work correctly.. GM can’t make a brake light work right and we trust them to build a car that’s fully electric? Yeah, no thanks.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
29 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Maybe it’s a me problem? All I know is if someone is turning and you do that lazy drift to steer around them it’s not happy with me, if I’m approaching someone who braked too hard it’s not happy with me (even if I’m already on the brakes!) plus that one time it freaked out on an open road just makes me question it all..

Der Foo
Der Foo
29 days ago
Reply to  Cool Dave

My OB ‘dings’ at me when I swerve around someone that is turning or when I have my head turned too long to one side, but so far no panic attacks. I know that half most of the time it is a ‘me’ issue.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
29 days ago

Hmm, 2.1 seconds alert. Plenty of time for old farts like me to mistake the gas pedal for the brake.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
29 days ago

I’m surprised that Elon Musk hasn’t bought up every copy of Total Recall, just to make sure no one ever again calls his car a “Johnny Cab”.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
29 days ago

‘Total Recall’ is a scary phrase for automakers. Johnny Cab sounds like a good name for a mobile restroom.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
29 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Total Recall? NBD
–Vinfast

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
29 days ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

They’re probably wishing they had no recall these days.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
29 days ago

Don’t you ever mention that name and the best movie ever made in the same sentence again!

That said, good thing I have it ripped and backed up. Total Recall is to action movies what Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is to comedies: perfect.

David Smith
David Smith
29 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I’m taking your comment at face value. I like both of those movies but they would be hard pressed to make my top 100 in either genre.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
29 days ago
Reply to  David Smith

Haha, I’m not being facetious, I really do adore them both. I (hopefully obviously) know there’s room to disagree. I saw Total Recall pretty young and it was formative, and Austin Powers is just so perfectly, relentlessly dumb that even the editing mistakes seem intentional, or at least charming.

David Smith
David Smith
29 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Fair enough.

The Mark
The Mark
27 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Total Recall is fantastically cheesy.

“You’re in a Johnny Cab!”

Arnold – “How did I get here?”

“The door opened…you got in!”

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
29 days ago

Years of riding (and being taught the right way back when, thankfully) has instilled in me a paranoia about watching everything all the the time.

As soon as I’m braking – and then stopped – for a light or traffic, I’m toggling my view back and forth between the road ahead and mirrors for behind. As I watch traffic come up on me, I try to gauge what’s up, how progressively they’re slowing or not, and if needed, flash the brake to promote being seen, get ready to get outta there fast, etc.

I don’t know about others here, but I tend to be “meh” about these systems overall – on one hand, I appreciate that a computer will likely be more predictable than a human, but on the other, that means my active safety measures are a little reduced in effectiveness as drivers rely more on the system/less on their own engagement.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
29 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I stare at my mirrors until there is a car at a full stop behind me. I’ll also pulse the brake lever in hopes that the flashing light will help get their attention as well.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
29 days ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

I do this when I drive my little car around.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
29 days ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

I do this in my regular car, particularly when traffic has changed rapidly enough I have to do some form of emergency braking. If I’m emergency braking then the guy behind me likely has to as well, so I try to check my rear views and listen for his shrieking tires, so I can try to bail to one side using the gas pedal if I can.

Black Peter
Black Peter
26 days ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

Bravo! My worst nightmare was getting rear ended at a stop light, so I did the same thing.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
29 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Preach. Every single part of this.

I can’t remember if it was MSF or my brother that taught me, always have a way out. I’ve done well with that, but people are making it harder and harder to do – in a traffic jam a little bit ago, people start using the shoulder as a third lane (they deserve to go faster don’t you know), and early in the jam, or when there was a little reprieve, I invariably had someone coming in hot.

In a different ride, same situation except the road was boxed in with jersey barriers, someone was coming in so hot they used the space between me and the shoulder (literally just the width of a rumble strip) to finish coming to a stop. I had been setting up in the rightmost third in case I needed to split for safety – there wasn’t enough shoulder to trust it as a route out). Splitting isn’t legal here and I don’t know if I even would if it were, but it beats being snapped in half.

Sometimes I wish riding didn’t feel so goddamn good.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
29 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I don’t think it’s part of the official MSF instruction, but I remember my instructor telling anecdotes about almost getting rear ended and to be prepared to jump off your bike or leave space to gun it up the sidewalk.

A. Barth
A. Barth
29 days ago

While automatic emergency braking may limit collision damage, it’s not a parachute.

Oddly enough, I think it is a lot like a parachute.

It needs to be set up properly; a chute needs to be packed properly. There can be mechanical failures on both, etc.

But the main reason for the comparison is that a parachute doesn’t actually stop you, either: its main function is to slow you down a lot so when you do hit the ground you aren’t hurt (or you’re hurt less), i.e. limiting collision damage. That seems to be the most common result among the reported tests.

It would be great if the auto-stop feature worked effectively enough to avoid collisions all the time, though that might start to increase the likelihood of the auto-stopped car being rear-ended by a non-auto-stop vehicle. IIRC we went through the same thing in the early days of ABS-equipped cars.

Drew
Drew
29 days ago

If these systems are not OK Computer, which album are they? The Bends? Amnesiac?

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
29 days ago
Reply to  Drew

For me, has to be Kid A – all techno-dystopian.

Drew
Drew
29 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Yeah, that’s probably the right answer here. Techno-dystopian, just like so many things these days.

Goose
Goose
29 days ago

Your Automatic Emergency Braking System Might Be Worse Than You Thought

That would imply I have high expectations for my AEBS. I detest mine as it is overly sensitive and slams on the brakes for nothing, yet doesn’t seem to do anything when it should. I hope it could “save” me, but have absolutely zero expectations of it ever doing so. The most likely thing I can think it would do is lead me to being rear ended because it randomly slams on the brakes for no damn good reason and the system in the car behind me will similarly be garbage and not prevent the crash.

Last edited 29 days ago by Goose
Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
29 days ago

Unsurprisingly, the common driver uses these systems as a crutch instead of an aid.

AEB – “I don’t need to watch the traffic down the road because my car will brake for me.”
BLIS – “I don’t need to scan my mirrors because the car will warn me when I try to change lanes.”
ACC – “I can camp and zone out in the left lane because my car will adjust the speed.”
Lane Keeping Assist – “I can look down at my phone because my car will pull me back into the lane if I drift.”

These systems are relied on beyond their design parameters and then people get upset when they find themselves causing an accident.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
29 days ago

I don’t drive anything new enough to have these systems. But, having been behind a motorcycle which rear ended the car in front, got spun into oncoming traffic which then shoved him towards us, I am quite good about giving riders space. I’ll also make the ‘I see you’ gesture to riders in traffic and at intersections—especially when I’m in my work van with all its blind spots

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