Automatic braking may sound like technology from the far-off future, but it's already here. A recent survey by AAA found that nine percent of drivers in the U.S. own vehicles with these systems built in, and almost 40 percent say they want automatic braking in their next car. However, not all automatic brakes are created equal.
Federal regulators and automakers plan to make these safety systems standard in nearly all passenger vehicles by 2022, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, not all of these systems are designed to bring cars to complete stops.
The AAA report concluded that automatic braking essentially takes two main forms: either slowing or stopping a vehicle in order to prevent crashes, or merely slowing it to reduce the severity of a collision.
"Automatic braking essentially takes two main forms."
Studies have shown that crash prevention systems are generally more effective. At speeds under 30 miles per hour, AAA found that crash prevention systems avoided collisions about 60 percent of the time.
Systems designed to reduce crash severity only avoided crashes at that speed about one-third of the time. The problem is that most drivers don't realize that there is such a difference.
"[T]wo-thirds of Americans familiar with the technology believe that automatic emergency braking systems are designed to avoid crashes without driver intervention," John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, told The Brake Report. "The reality is that today's systems vary greatly in performance, and many are not designed to stop a moving car."
It's important for drivers to understand their automatic braking systems and have assurances from a vehicle testing service that they will work as intended.