New study: Auto emergency braking system AEB performs poorly at normal speeds

According to new research from the American Automobile Association (AAA), automatic emergency braking (AEB) in cars is quite good at preventing low-speed rear-end collisions, but when the vehicle is traveling at a more normal speed, the performance is just bad.

Beginning in September 2022, all new cars sold in the U.S. must come standard with the AEB system, which uses a forward-facing camera and other sensors to automatically brake in the event of an imminent collision. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that AEB could help prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries by 2025.

AAA wanted to test the AEB with four common vehicles to see how it's fared since it was first put on a production car nearly 20 years ago, but it didn't turn out well.

Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations at the AAA, said in a statement: "The automatic emergency braking system does a decent job of handling the limited task it was designed to do. Unfortunately, this task was enacted many years ago, and Regulators' slow crash standards have not evolved."

The team selected four vehicles for testing, all equipped with driver assistance features including AEB: the 2022 Chevrolet Equinox LT, the 2022 Ford Explorer XLT, the 2022 Honda CR-V Touring, and 2022 Toyota RAV4 LE.

AEB has proven useful in reducing low-speed rear-end collisions over the years , but AAA wanted to test how it fared in two of the more common and deadly crash scenarios: a T-crash and a left turn in front of oncoming traffic. These two types of crashes accounted for nearly 40 percent of total fatalities in crashes involving two passenger vehicles from 2016 to 2020.

The results were rather dismal, with AEB failing to prevent 100 percent of the crash in a left-turn test in front of the Model T and oncoming traffic, and the system failed to alert the driver and reduce speed.

In the rear-end crash test, the AEB performs slightly better, but only if the speed is lower . At 30 mph, the system prevented 17 of 20 collisions or an 85 percent success rate. The impact speed was also reduced by 86 percent in tests where the crash occurred. But at 40 mph, AEB prevented only 6 of 20 rear-end collisions, a success rate of only 30 percent. For the test run where the crash occurred, the impact velocity was reduced by 62%.

This isn't the first time the AAA has pointed to shortcomings in automatic braking and other driver-assistance features. A 2019 study by the group found that AEB was preventing cars from rolling over fake pedestrians at speeds of 20 mph. The performance on the human side is pretty bad.

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