Automatic Emergency Braking Issues

Written By Benjamin L. Vanasse

Recently consumer safety group, The Center for Auto Safety, petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to initiate a safety defect investigation into false activation of the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system in 2017-2018 model year Nissan Rogue. The Center found 87 complaints in NHTSA’s database for the 2017-2018 Nissan Rogue that all indicated that the AEB system would engage when there was no obstruction in the path of the vehicle. Many of the complaints detail instances where the AEB system may have been triggered by railroad tracks, traffic lights, bridges, and other fixed objects. However, a not insignificant number of them also occurred with no obstacles in sight. A handful of the reports also detailed instances where the activation occurred at highway speeds, which could potentially cause a serious accident.

What is Automatic Emergency Braking?

AEB is a crash avoidance feature that uses newer technology incorporating some limited automation to assist drivers to help them avoid crashes. AEB uses cameras, radar, or light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to detect when the vehicle is getting to close to an object in front of it. Often the system will issue a warning before automatically braking the vehicle if the driver has yet to react and a crash is imminent. In the case of the 2017-2018 Nissan Rogue, multiple consumers have reported that the AEB automatically brakes the car when it shouldn’t, leading many people to simply turn off the feature.

Is Automatic Emergency Braking Safe?

AEB has potentially life-saving benefits. A recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that AEB and other similar Forward Collision Warning technology could decrease front-to-rear crash rates by 50%. Car manufacturers and NHTSA have both recognized the potentially life-saving benefits of AEB, with 20 automakers pledging in 2016 to make low-speed AEB standard on all new passenger vehicles by 2022. Although this is certainly a big step in the right direction for public safety, it’s important for drivers and passengers to know about new potential risks, and the new kinds of collisions this technology could cause.

If a malfunction of the AEB system is the cause of a crash, whether an issue with the hardware (cameras, radar, lidar), or the software (automation programming), there could be multiple liable parties beyond the car manufacturer. That’s why it’s important if you’re involved in a collision, to make sure that your attorneys understand this technology, and the legal implications it raises.