Doctors campaign to make Autonomous Emergency Braking standard

Picture this: you’re driving the kids to school in stop-start peak hour traffic on the freeway and it’s already been a difficult start to the day.

The kids are squabbling and carrying on in the back seat and all of a sudden there’s the sound of slapping, a scream and crying. Instinctively you turn around to tell them to sit quietly, stop fighting and behave themselves - or else.

And as you turn back round to the front you discover the car in front has stopped and you’re about to slam into the back of it at 60km/h.

But before you can even think about hitting the brakes your car does it for you, bringing you and your squabbling brood safely to a stop with just centimetres to spare. You breathe a long, slow sigh of relief and thank your lucky stars for the day Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) became standard equipment in cars.

AEB uses cameras and sensors to detect the speed and distance of objects in a vehicle’s way and apply the brakes automatically if the driver doesn’t. It’s already standard in many models from many manufacturers including Audi, BMW, Citroen, Fiat, Hyundai, Mercedes, Subaru and Holden. 

The AMA argues that the technology is a proven measure to reduce the number and severity of vehicle crashes and associated trauma. Its president, Brian Owler, says road trauma is avoidable.

“The key is making cars safer, and educating drivers about the risks of speeding and careless driving,” Professor Owler said.

“Too often, I see the horrific injuries and loss of life caused by road crashes when drivers get it wrong.

“Prevention is far better than the cure - if we avoid the crash, we avoid the trauma.

“We must do all we can to eliminate it, and governments have an important role to play, especially in working with the car industry to make cars safer, preferably by making life-saving technology like AEB standard features in all new cars.

“The safest cars should be in reach of all Australian drivers.

“Vehicle technologies such as AEB can help reduce road trauma at a much faster rate than we are seeing now.”

The AMA and ANCAP are calling on the Australian Government to help make AEB a reality in all new cars sold in Australia by:

  • redirecting car manufacturer subsidies into programs that will introduce AEB into cars faster;
  • supporting a nationwide AEB consumer awareness program;
  • updating its fleet purchasing policy to include AEB;
  • appointing a dedicated Road Safety Minister; and
  • putting pressure on manufacturers to include AEB as a standard feature on all new cars.

There are three types of AEB systems and some vehicles have more than one of them:


Lidar-based systems use a laser array usually fitted near the top of the windscreen to bounce a laser light ahead of the car. When the beam hits a target the redirected light is analysed for how long it takes to return to a sensor. This tells the system how far the object is away and its relative speed. When it detects a potential collision it re-arms the brakes for full stopping power, or automatically applies them if the driver doesn’t respond.

Lidar systems are generally designed for low speed situations under 30km/h.

Radar and camera-based

Radar systems are usually mounted behind the grille and can “see” for 80-200 metres ahead of the car. Radar waves are sent out ahead and when they detect objects the reflected echo is analysed to establish its distance. Radar reflections from moving objects produce a Doppler shift effect, which the system analyses to calculate its speed.

Some systems combine radar with cameras which assist by gathering information. Subaru, however, uses an exclusively stereoscopic camera-based system.

If the system thinks a crash is imminent it pre-arms the brakes and warns the driver with audio alerts, flashing lights or a message on the instrument panel.

Some systems pulse the brake pedal or tug the seatbelt repeatedly. Should the driver be “off with the fairies” and ignore all this the system progressively applies the brakes.

Detecting pedestrians

Unlike cars, trucks and other vehicles, pedestrians are much harder for AEB systems to spot because of their mass, size and speed. Developing a system to detect pedestrians and react accordingly is quite a programming challenge, though Volvo, Mercedes Benz, BMW and Subaru have all developed systems to do just that.

Blog image: Lexus Pre-Collision System frontal, Author: Altair78, Date: 18 August 2009

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Categories: Technology, Safety, Australia
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