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Technology 101: How Automatic Braking Systems Work



One of the most effective safety features ever designed for automobiles is the Automatic Braking System. These systems are designed to help prevent collisions, particularly high-speed ones. The way they work is pretty simple.

All auto braking systems sense something in the path of the vehicle. While some apply the vehicle’s brakes when an object is detected, most are designed to slow the vehicle down well before a collision occurs.

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According to a study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), vehicles equipped with pre-collision systems featuring automatic braking could mitigate or prevent up to 65 percent of single-vehicle collisions with pedestrians in the U.S.

How They Work

Car manufacturers generally have their own philosophy on how their specific automatic braking system should work. In general, though, they all start the process by monitoring objects in front of the car. Sensors are used and these are usually radar or lasers mounted on the front of the vehicle. The data from the sensors is then fed to a computer module that analyzes it and if an impending collision is detected, an alarm sounds and the brakes are applied.

Our technical contacts at Reedman-Toll Chevrolet of Langhorne, a local Chevrolet dealer in Langhorne, PA, told us that systems incorporating GPS are now coming out. This innovation allows the automatic braking system to not only avoid collisions but also to avoid running stop lights and signs. If the processing unit senses that a driver is about to run a stop sign (which it can via GPS location mapping), it can sound a gentle alarm and activate the car’s braking system.

Adaptive Cruise Controls

In addition to collision avoidance systems, many cars use the same technology in their adaptive cruise control systems. These systems have been around for a while and are basically “smart cruise controls.” They measure the speed of the vehicle in front of you and make sure that your vehicle doesn’t speed up on it. This is usually done by reducing the vehicle speed via the engine’s throttle.

What Vehicles Have Automatic Braking?

Today, most automakers offer at least one model that offers a collision avoidance system, and its only a matter of time before all new vehicles offer the technology.

Automatic braking systems are so effective that the IIHS now maintains a list of vehicles that come equipped with automatic braking.

Do I Really Need One?

Nope, you don’t have to have automatic braking system. That being said, you should consider them for several reasons.

First, consider that everyone has a momentary lapse in attention once in a while. If this happens to you, your automatic braking system has your back. Secondly, falling asleep at the wheel kills hundreds of Americans every year. If all the vehicle involved had automatic braking systems, that number could be in the single digits.

In other words, it would be a very smart decision to get automatic braking with your car. There is no need to put your life in unnecessary risk when behind the wheel.

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