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Automatic Braking: The Best Road Safety Innovation Since Seatbelts

September 15, 2014

A new automatic braking system has been described as the biggest improvement in car safety since the seat belt, by the chief executive of the motor insurers’ research centre, Thatcham. This new system has been heralded as another lifesaving invention and could potentially save thousands of lives, if it was made compulsory.

The new system, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), has been available for many years but it hasn’t been fitted as standard to all vehicles. It’s one of those optional extras that people are offered at the car showroom but don’t always opt for. The technology works to slow vehicles down and even stop them in some occasions, to avoid collisions that occur at speeds of up to 50 mph. Safety analysts believe this technology could save lives and should become a universal standard.

The comparison to seatbelts is particularly interested as when they were made compulsory for front seat passengers in 1983, we saw a drop of 50% in the number of motorists seriously injured or killed.

Research carried out by Thatcham this year suggests that if all cars were fitted with AEB from 2015, there could be a fall in as many as 17,000 deaths and serious injuries on the roads by 2025. They also noted that insurance premiums would fall by 10% in line with this. The official government figures show that 1,713 people died on British roads in 2013, as well as 21,657 who were seriously injured and this figure could fall with the introduction of AEB.

AEB works through using radars and lasers which detect obstacles and automatically activate the brakes it the driver is slow to react. Thatcham are called for the Treasury to offer £500 subsidies for cars that are fitted with the mechanism.

The European crash test body, Euro NCAP, are planning to include AEB in their safety assessments of new cars from this year and there is hope this means it will become widespread across the industry. People from a wide range of expert positions, including representative of the European Transport Safety Council, have also called for the immediate introduction of AEB as the benefits outweigh any financial concerns or risks.

Only 25% of all new cars are able to be fitted with AEB and from this 25%, an even smaller 10% is actually fitted with the system. Volvo, a brand known for their safety ethic, are believed to be the only brand who offer the technology as standard on every model in their range. It is an expensive addition for manufacturers but if it makes the roads safer, then it is something that should be made compulsory as soon as possible.