There’s No Need to Fear Automatic Emergency Braking Systems

June 21, 2016

This year 20 auto manufacturers pledged to make automatic emergency braking systems a standard feature on vehicles by 2022. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the commitment represents more than 99% of the U.S. auto market.

But brake manufacturers say this cutting edge technology won’t require a big investment in training or tools for technicians working in independent tire shops. “Don’t be freaked out by all these cool commercials on TV with the car stopping itself,” says Bob Pattengale, training and hotline manager for Bosch Automotive Aftermarket. “The important thing to remember is perform a good brake service. The customer’s counting on it.”

Focus on the basics

The systems essentially work to create a protective buffer around the vehicle, with sensors measuring the distance between other vehicles on the road. Terry Heffelfinger likens it to having a set of eyes on the front of a vehicle. He’s vice president of product development, research and development, and quality for Brake Parts Inc., which manufactures the Raybestos brand.

“In the older days it was called a sonar system. You’re sending a ping to the car in front of you to look at that distance between you and that vehicle. It sends this signal out, has a protective barrier in front of you and when your speed is rapidly approaching or encroaching on that assured clear distance, it says, ‘Hey, I need to react because you’re not reacting.’”

And it’s in that split second when the system applies the brake for the distracted driver that the importance of a standard quality brake job comes into play.

Heffelfinger says if a brake pad can provide a coefficient of friction of 0.040 mu, but replacement pads offer a coefficient of friction of 0.020 mu, half of what the original equipment pad has, “You don’t have a chance of stopping the vehicle in the distance that you need with the set of pads that are inferior.

“The basic premise is you need to trust in a brand that does the testing, that does the due diligence to ensure the pads that you’re putting on in replacement match OE form, fit, function.”

Pattengale agrees technicians need to focus on the basics. “Friction materials, the rotors, all those components are identical to what’s been put in cars for years. The electronic components, electronic stability control, which every car in America has to have, all the pieces of the puzzle are there. It’s just a matter of adding additional sensors that can detect what’s around the car.”

Quality brake job is the top priority

Brent Berman, director of training and consumer experience for Federal-Mogul Motorparts, says those sensors may add another level of complexity. Federal-Mogul manufactures Wagner brakes.

“There will be new things to understand when service professionals undertake maintenance, such as identifying and disconnecting sensors before a repair, and possibly reprogramming a system following the job,” Berman says. “It’s one of the needs we see and will address in the curriculum offered through our Garage Gurus training centers.”

That training is critical, and it’s something both the Bosch and Raybestos brands offer to their customers as well.

Pattengale says, “The biggest problem in our industry is technicians deviate from the fundamentals. They do a lot of guesswork. They don’t do good quality procedures. They don’t understand the systems they’re working on.

“The important thing that we feel very strongly about is making sure you perform a proper brake service,” he says.

“There are proper steps in the inspection, making sure you replace the pads and either replacing or machining the rotors. Replace the hardware. Changing the brake fluid on a regular period based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Those are just the normal things every repair center should do, and provided they do that in a timely manner the system’s going to be robust and prepared to stop as needed.”

And if a customer reports a problem with the automatic braking system in her vehicle, where should the technician begin the search for a solution?

Heffelfinger suggests posing this important question to the customer: “Have you had the brakes repaired recently?” If yes, a shop should ask more about what was listed on the repair order. “If they don’t match the OE level of form, fit, function in the level of friction, that can compromise the stopping distance required of these systems.” 

Automatic braking standard is six years away

In March, 20 automakers committed to making automatic emergency braking a standard feature on virtually all new cars no later than Sept. 1, 2022.

This includes Audi, BMW, FCA US LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors Inc., Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo Car USA.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the agreement will make automatic emergency braking standard on new cars three years earlier than could have been achieved through the formal regulatory process. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that three year period will prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries.

The commitment by automakers will make automatic emergency braking technology standard on virtually all light-duty cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 pounds or less by September 2022.

The same standard will be in place for trucks with a gross weight up to 10,000 pounds by Sept. 1, 2025.

NHTSA is encouraging the development of this technology. In December 2015 the agency said it would begin rating the automatic braking systems using its five-star safety ratings beginning in model year 2018. NHTSA also is conducting research on how these systems can reduce collisions with pedestrians.

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.