Will automatic emergency braking give consumers what they want? The early signs are good

Dec. 9, 2016

Within the next six years, 99 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States are to be equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB), a technology for automobiles that senses and prevents an imminent collision with another vehicle, person or obstacle by braking without driver input.

In March 2016, 20 major automakers and the U.S. government agreed to make automatic braking standard on new light vehicles sold in the United States by 2022. One of the compelling reasons for the agreement is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study of police-reported crashes, which shows that automatic braking and forward collision alert systems reduce the incidence of rear-end crashes by 39 percent.

When airbags were mandated, the purpose was to protect occupants in a crash. The new era of vehicle safety is focused on preventing crashes and not just protecting occupants. The J.D. Power 2016 Tech Choice Study finds that U.S. consumers are most interested in technologies that will protect them in a collision and driving assistance technologies that will help avoid a collision in the first place.

But what does current safety data show for this new technology? According to NHTSA data analyzed by J.D. Power through its SafetyIQ platform, among the 348 brake-related complaints for select 2016 model-year vehicles that offer AEB as standard equipment, only seven are related to emergency braking technology.

In addition, a SafetyIQ analysis finds that none of the 1,361 brake recalls to date are related to AEB. An even more comprehensive examination of the SafetyIQ Early Warning System, which identifies the highest-risk issues based on the likelihood that a complaint will result in a future recall, shows only three automatic braking complaints out of 4,089 high-risk issues in 2015 and 2016.

“Full adoption of automatic emergency braking will provide a considerable benefit to the public, and our analysis shows that the introduction of this life-saving technology has led to very few quality issues or customer concerns so far,” said Dave Sargent, vice president, global automotive at J.D. Power. “Our Early Warning System will allow any emerging issues to be quickly identified and addressed, but so far so good.”

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