With 2020 just around the corner, the self-imposed deadline in which 40 nations will make automatic braking systems standard in all-new cars, safety officials are impressed with how effective the technology has proven to be on the world's highways and byways. But they have a ways to go before safety officials can call them truly superb.
That's the overarching conclusion from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In a statement released earlier this year, the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit organization noted that presently, automatic emergency braking systems are fairly binary – they help prevent crashes from head-on or behind. In fact, IIHS found that AEB reduced rear-end crashes and those that led to injuries by 56%. They've also proven successful in reducing property damage liability insurance claims.
"AEB could diminish front-to-rear crashes by as much as 70%."
70% crash reduction is possible
Still, IIHS says there's plenty of room for improvement. Indeed, the scientific and educational safety organization is of the mindset automatic emergency braking could diminish front-to-rear crashes by as much as 70% and police-reported crashes by 20%. State laws vary in terms of when an accident must be relayed to the proper authorities, but generally, it has to do with the amount of damage that crashes yield in terms of actual dollars. For example, in Arizona, mandatory accident reporting is for anything $300 and above, while in Alaska, the damage amount is $2,000, according to the American Automobile Association.
Jessica Cicchino, vice president for research at IIHS, conceded that it's virtually impossible to prevent each and every car accident. However, thanks to the extent to which technology is advancing, AEB will likely be able to reduce the frequency of crashes that current automatic emergency braking systems don't address as well, such as those that involve turning right or left or changing lanes.
"No crash avoidance technology is designed to address every possible crash scenario," Cicchino explained. "Designers have rightly focused on the most common kinds of crashes. As automatic emergency braking matures, manufacturers are expanding functionality to account for collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists, for example."
Boston, New York City, Atlanta and San Francisco are among the cities that have installed more bicycle lanes to accommodate those who prefer to get to their intended destinations on two wheels. These have helped to reduce bicycle-involved accidents, but they remain too common for comfort, with 783 cyclists killed by a motor vehicle in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roughly 16% of these fatal accidents – 125 – occurred in Florida.
IIHS is confident that the improved functionality and detection capabilities of vehicles equipped with AEB should be able to further reduce these types of deadly crashes.
"Motorcycle-involved crashes could dwindle by as much as 13%."
Deadly motorcycle crashes may also slide
The Virginia-based nonprofit is also rather sanguine on the ability for automatic emergency braking to curb motorcycle-involved collisions. Because these types of accidents often occur at high rates of speed, they're frequently serious in nature, with 86% between 2011 and 2015 resulting in a death or injury, according to separate IIHS analysis. The organization believes that assuming AEB technology further improves, motorcycle-involved crashes could dwindle by as much as 13%.
Germany, France, Denmark and Ireland are among the countries that have agreed that all-new light passenger vehicles must be equipped with automatic emergency braking, an accord which will take effect in 2020. The United States, however, did not sign on to this agreement, which was brokered by a United Nations agency earlier this year.
That said, some of the best-selling nameplates in the U.S. have taken the bull by the horns, installing more than 50% of their 2018 model year vehicles with this technology. These automakers include Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Volvo, according to NHTSA. The undisputed leader is Toyota. The company says that 90% of the 2.5 million 2018 automobiles in the marketplace have AEB, with Nissan at 78% (1.1 million automobiles) and Honda at 61% (1.6 million).
"Technologies like automatic emergency braking can help make cars safer on the roads, which means Americans are safer when traveling," said Heidi King, NHTSA deputy administrator. "This update on the status of the voluntary AEB commitment demonstrates how collaborative approaches to advance safety technology can be an effective way to advance our shared safety goals."
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