Automatic emergency braking boosts safety but some complaints of false activations

The latest wave in vehicle safety technology are systems that can apply the brakes in an emergency when the driver fails to respond in time.

Government safety experts and manufacturers agree that automatic emergency braking, also known as forward collision warning systems, can save lives and reduce the severity of crashes.

But some drivers with the advanced safety feature have complained that their vehicle’s brakes activated when the path was clear and there was no emergency.

“When they work, they are among the most revolutionary sets of safety technology that we’ve had in a long time,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that AEB and FCW systems reduce rear-end crashes by up to 50 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said consumers recognize the safety value and demand is growing for the safety features.

But there have been some problems with the new technology. NHTSA has received at least 87 complaints from owners of 2017 and 2018 Nissan Rogues that the brakes activated when the path was clear and there was no emergency.

“We believe it’s a real safety concern when you’ve got brakes engaging when they shouldn’t be,” said Levine. “This should be a recall.”

Levine’s group petitioned NHTSA in March to initiate a safety defect investigation into the systems installed on late model Nissan Rogues.

Nissan North America is conducting a voluntary safety campaign on some 2017 and 2018 Nissan Rogue models.

“On some affected vehicles, vehicle owners may experience False Positive Activation by the Forward Emergency Braking/Automatic Emergency Braking system in unique road conditions, such as specific railroad crossings, bridges, and low hanging traffic lights,” said a statement from Jeanine Whited, corporation communications at Nissan North America.

Nissan is notifying owners of affected vehicles to bring their cars into an authorized dealer for a software update to the system, which will improve the system’s functionality, the car manufacturer said.

“We want to make sure everyone with one of these Rogues ― 2017, 2018, 2019 ― gets that fix,” Levine said.

The independent nonprofit vehicle safety group conceded that new technology sometimes requires fixes and tweaks to ensure effectiveness but expects more and more vehicles will be equipped with the advanced safety technology.

“It’s not uncommon to see new features have, let’s call them bumps in the road, as they come on line,” Levine said.

Vehicle manufacturers have told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that most of their fleets will have automatic emergency braking systems by 2022.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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