Automatic Braking Saves Lives

Soon enough, your car will be a much better driver than you are. Why shouldn’t it be? You have a million different things to think about during the day, like what time the kids have to be at school, what you have to get done at work, and what to fix for dinner. All your car has to think about is driving from Point A to Point B, and in this technological age, car manufacturers are racing to come up with new ways to make your car smarter and safer on the road.

Automatic Braking

Enter automatic braking, intelligent braking, pre-collision systems, collision warning with brake support, or whatever fancy name the car company gives it. The system scans for possible hazards ahead of the car and measures factors such as speed and steering angle. If the readings imply a collision is imminent, the car will charge the brakes or apply them outright.

The technology is a futuristic driving fantasy that has become a reality in order to help save lives on the road, and there is a good possibility it will come to a car dealership near you. Automatic braking is currently available in several high-end car models, such as Audi, Lexus, and BMW. As development continues, more affordable cars, including some Chrysler models, will be outfitted.

The theory behind the automatic, or intelligent, braking system is that it allows the car to react more quickly than most drivers can. In most systems, sensors on the front of the car read obstacles ahead, other cars in particular, and judge their velocity. Advanced systems can stop the car, avoiding a collision entirely. Less-advanced systems will apply the brakes and slow the car to help lessen impact. Other systems tighten the seatbelts to help reduce the risk of injury to drivers and passengers in the event of an unavoidable collision.

Forward Collision Avoidance Assist Concept

Nissan, for example, has developed a system called the Forward Collision Avoidance Assist Concept. This wordy system combines radar with a computer to scan objects in front of the vehicle. If the speed appears to be too high when approaching an object, the system will alert the driver with a sound, lift the gas pedal, and press the brake pedal. This is not, however, a jarring, wheel-screeching, rubber-burning event; it is, rather, an indicator to the driver to take action soon or risk the consequences.

With their sights on new technology, many car companies are becoming computer hardware and software engineering companies as well, inserting advanced computer systems toeing the line of artificial intelligence into their cars. These computers are programmed to be aware of information about the vehicle a normal driver might never even consider, right down to the amount of air in the tires and how that might affect the ride. With intelligent traction and handling, the car can adjust its performance based on weather and road conditions, preparing for situations when a driver bundles up his or her fists into white knuckles on the steering wheel while hoping for the best.

Automated Cars are the Future

It is a lesser-known fact, for instance, that some car companies, primarily BMW, are working on vehicle prototypes that can drive themselves. They have turned their cars into giant sensors, radars, and GPS receivers that receive a constant flurry of information from the road, everything near the road, and from outer space, using satellite coordinates to program their routes. BMW has demonstrated a working prototype, which, with some guidance input, can navigate its way around a racetrack at optimal speeds without driver input.

The days of completely self-driven cars are far in the future, but some of these technologies, especially advanced braking systems, are working their way into everyday cars in order to achieve the ultimate goal: to make roads safer. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) recently released solid evidence of the impact automatic brakes are making on the roads, indicating the automatic braking version of some Volvo SUVs is preventing one out of four low-speed crashes. That’s a 75% success rate for avoiding those exceptionally annoying fender-benders that tie up traffic and bump up insurance rates.1

These reports of low-speed collision avoidance systems boost the IIHS’s optimism. Their success in avoiding minor accidents bodes well for systems meant to help prevent major accidents. The IIHS expects to have more solid information on high-speed automatic braking systems within the year, and hopes its findings will affect the rules set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Stopping 1.9 Million Crashes a Year

In addition to a host of other crash avoidance features currently in research, automatic braking systems could have a great effect, not only on safety, but also on insurance rates. The IIHS estimates that crash avoidance features could prevent or lessen the impact of 1.9 million crashes a year and help prevent one out of three fatal crashes. Those numbers could make a marked difference in the price owners of such cars pay for insurance. It could reduce the costs of insurance for everyone as well since it also reduces crash rates by not colliding with other cars.

Automatic brakes could be, literally, a lifesaver. Why shouldn’t your car be a better driver than you? Driving is its job, its only job, and with the technology of automatic braking, the future of the road is a safer one. Soon enough, we’ll all have the pleasure of sitting back and enjoying the ride.

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