We have all seen the commercials. A driver, faced with a narrow lane on a freeway, or a curved driveway that requires an exit in reverse, takes her hands off the wheel. The car does the rest, with precision and surety. The driver’s worried face eases into a satisfied smile. Advanced driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, and automatic braking, driving safer than it has ever been. Or, so we are told. But occasionally, automatic braking malfunctions without warning. Are automatic brakes scaring people? Gildshire admits to a certain level of alarm about this. We collaborated with Jalopnik on the research.
We all know how automatic braking is supposed to work. The system slows or stops the car when a collision risk is sensed, especially if the driver fails to react quickly. The driver and passengers, startled but unharmed, continue over the river and through the woods.
Apparently, though, the cars equipped with automatic brakes occasionally stop themselves when no risk is present. Over 400 complaints were filed with the NHTSA over the past three years.
What are people saying about this?
Most complaints are from drivers who reported that their car’s brakes activated suddenly, though no danger was present. The opposite claims, though, were filed as well. Namely that the automatic brakes were inactive even though danger was present.
Fourteen complaints described the car braking so abruptly that it was rear-ended. One driver lost control of his car when it suddenly braked at highway speed, spun out and crashed into a guardrail.
Fortunately, no fatalities have yet been reported, but three incidents resulted in bodily injury. Several drivers complained the feature unexpectedly stopped their car as it crossed railroad tracks!
Cynthia Walsh owns a 2018 Nissan Rogue and said she was driving 65 mph when the Sport Utility Vehicle slammed on the brakes for no apparent reason.
“I was so scared,” Ms. Walsh said. “I was in tears.”
Twice, she took the vehicle to the Nissan dealership for fixes, but the problem persists. Now, she is frightened to drive it.
Who can blame her? That does sound scary!
The NHTSA says automatic braking cuts down on the seriousness of crashes and saves lives. On balance, they say it has been a good thing. But the agency also warns us that the tech isn’t consistent across the industry, since automatic braking in your car may vary from the system installed in your neighbor’s car.
That’s confusing! People borrow cars!
True, moreover some buyers aren’t even aware their car has automatic braking. Imagine their reaction when the car stops on a dime at highway speeds.
Until regulation is in place that covers these kinds of safety technology upgrades (?), expect more mishaps of these types. Research your car AFTER you buy it. That’s at least as important as the research you did before purchase. Learn the features. Then learn what features are missing. That’s the best advice Gildshire has if automatic brakes are scaring you or those you love. Good luck out there, please be safe.