Automatic braking is cool, but it doesn’t always work.
Maybe it will by 2022.
Twenty automakers have agreed to make automatic braking standard on the vast majority of vehicles within six years, an effort that is drawing wide praise for its potential to vastly reduce car accidents.
However, there are still a couple of possible problems on the horizon.
First, it’s important to know that this is not a federal requirement, but a mutual agreement between 20 automakers. That means there are no punishments for not following through, which some consumer safety groups see as a problem.
A Reuters story said,
Former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook said the NHTSA should issue legally binding rules. She said the deal “was developed in secret with no public record of its factual basis, no legal requirement that companies comply and no penalties if a company lies about its compliance.”
Still, this is a step forward and could prevent millions of accidents on the road.
And probably cause a few.
The problem with automatic software like this in cars is that it can give drivers a false sense of security. They come to over-rely on the car’s automatic braking rather than using it as a safety feature in emergency situations. (I speak from experience: the system installed on my 2013 Subaru Legacy has failed to stop the car on a number of occasions and once nearly resulted in an accident.)
With this system installed in 99 percent of new cars within six years, we should hope the technology is refined to the point of being fail-proof.
Another problem is price.
Automatic braking is currently a feature reserved for top trim levels and is guaranteed to increase the price of base trims. The average price of a new car today is over $34,000, and that’s only going to go up as more features become standard.
Then again, there was a time when power steering, cruise control, and antilock brakes were expensive options too. Maybe automatic braking and, ultimately, autonomous cars are just part of the inevitable evolution of the automobile.
Do you think automatic braking should be standard on all new cars?