What Is Autonomous Emergency Braking? And Do I Need It?

Picture the scene. You’re driving home from work. You’ve driven this route a hundred times before. You’ve made the same turns, you’ve waited at the same lights and you’ve merged into the same lanes. It's so routine that you don't even need to concentrate.

Someone waves at you from the pavement so you glance over.

By the time you’ve got your eyes back on the road, you notice that the car in front of you has jammed on its brakes and you’re headed for a crash.

This type of nose-to-tail crash is incredibly common in the UK and can cause serious injury to everyone involved.

While the easiest way to prevent such collisions is to pay more attention, there is a car technology option, too. It’s called autonomous emergency braking or AEB and is what I’m going to look at for the rest of this article.

What is Autonomous Emergency Braking?

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is an autonomous technology that allows cars to automatically apply the brakes if it detects an upcoming obstruction.

AEB usually works by automatically scanning the road ahead using radar, although some fancy systems use lasers.

The car takes all the scanned data and analyses it in real time to work out what’s an obstacle and what’s just a nearby object.

If the system does detect an imminent collision, it will trigger some sort of warning to alert the driver, usually this is a dashboard light and buzzer. If the driver doesn’t heed the warning, the car will automatically apply the brakes.

At low speeds — for example, in city conditions or in traffic jams — AEB often avoid a collision entirely. However, at higher speeds there often isn’t enough time to bring the car to a complete stop. In these situations, AEB is still able to reduce your speed and lessen the force of an impact.

Does it really work?

AEB has had a super slow start. After all, it’s not exactly the most glamorous of technologies! However, since Euro NCAP added AEB as a requirement for a full five-star safety rating, manufacturers have really pulled their finger out.

Right now, around 17% of cars have AEB either as standard and a further 24% offer it as an optional extra.

But does it really work?

Well, according to a study from the EU, 5,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries could be prevented each year by the adoption of AEB technology. That’s a lot of lives to save by implementing a technology that has been around since 1966!

Should I get it?

In my opinion, AEB is a great piece of safety tech. It will help prevent low speed crashes and reduces the severity of high speed impacts.

Unfortunately, AEB is just the generic name for the technology. Manufacturers all have their own brand name, which makes it a right pain to compare what’s on offer.

Ford call it Active City Stop, Honda calls it Collision Mitigation Braking System, Land Rover calls it Autonomous Emergency Braking and Volvo calls it City Safety.

If you’re in doubt, get in touch with the manufacturer and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. Or pop a comment under this article and we’ll find out for you.