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Why Your Next Car Needs Automatic Braking

It'll pay attention to the road, even if you're not.

car example of automatic braking.

Most of us have narrowly avoided a car crash by hitting the brakes in the nick of time. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and accidents happen. But what if your car could brake for you?

The latest feature we see in more entry-level packages you’ll want in your next vehicle is automatic emergency braking (AEB). It’s certainly not new, but now it’s no longer only available on expensive or high-end luxury vehicles. While drivers still need to pay attention to the road and not a phone, more cars are starting to come with automatic braking, and that’s a good thing.

Features like lane assist and adaptive cruise control are great, but automatic braking can save lives and is a bigger deal. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Automatic Emergency Braking?

car sensors checking for collisions around it.

Automatic emergency braking is often called “AEB.” Some manufacturers combine it into a more extensive safety system along with (FCW) Forward collision warning. However, the two are slightly different yet have the same end goal.

So what is it? It’s a safety system that can identify when a possible collision is about to occur and responds by automatically activating the brakes. This will slow a vehicle before impact or prevent the collision entirely if you’re lucky. Yes, it’ll slam on the brakes for you.

A forward collision warning will alert you through visual displays on the dash, or a tactile vibration in your steering wheel or seat, telling you to start braking. Both systems can increase safety by reducing the severity of a crash. And in regards to AEB, that’s most likely a rear-end collision when a car stops ahead of you, and you’re not paying attention.

You can get these separately, but they’re both something you’ll want on a vehicle.

How Automatic Braking (AEB) Works

Adaptive Cruise Control animated image

This technology typically uses radar sensors, cameras, or even LiDAR to identify vehicles ahead of you. These sensors track distances and can instantly recognize quick changes to that distance.

According to Chevy, “when the feature detects another vehicle, you’ll typically see an icon that looks like a car on your dashboard. This icon may also display in your Head-Up Display if your vehicle has that available feature.” This means the system is aware of a forward vehicle. If a situation happens rapidly, and you don’t react fast enough, “AEB may automatically apply hard emergency braking.”

However, it’s important to know that not all systems are the same or operate at the same speeds. Select models won’t activate if you’re going too slow or too fast, meaning you’re on your own.

For example, many new Chevrolet vehicles use automatic emergency braking between 5-50mph. It’s essential to check your owner’s manual to see when the system could activate on any specific car. If you’re going under 50mph and the vehicle ahead of you stops and the system doesn’t recognize input from the driver, it’ll spring into action and brake for you.

Furthermore, select Chevy models or trim levels have Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking (EAEB). That technology combines AEB and FCW, as mentioned earlier, and can prevent a front-end collision, even at highway speeds. This is something you’ll want.

Standard Feature on New Vehicles in 2023

RAM Rebel ACC steering wheel buttons.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Thankfully, we have some good news. In 2019, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced that at least 20 automakers committed to making Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) a standard feature on all new cars by the end of September 2022.

So, if you bought a new 2022 or 2023 model-year vehicle from one of those 20 automakers, you already have automatic emergency braking. Or, if you’re planning on getting a new car soon, you’ll want to choose one from that list.

Tesla, Volvo, Audi, and Mercedes already have this on every car sold, and over 80% offer it today if you get a vehicle from Toyota, VW, Mazda, BMW, Subaru, Honda, or Nissan. And while GM has lagged a bit in this regard, most cars have it standard, or it’s an optional safety upgrade on higher trim levels.

Is Automatic Emergency Braking Worth It?

car rear ending a truck.
SKT Studio/Shutterstock.com

Absolutely. Anything that can prevent accidents on the road, or at least minimize one, is something you’ll want in any vehicle. Thankfully, most new cars in the United States moving forward have it as a standard option or a relatively affordable upgrade. Then, in the future, more vehicles will have it no matter the trim level.

That said, the technology could still be better. Adverse weather can affect your AEB system. Heavy rain, fog, and snow may disable these systems in certain situations. Or, while on a sharp turn, vehicles parked on the side of the road can occasionally falsely activate the system.

According to a study by AAA, the slower the vehicle travels, the more likely it is that the automatic emergency braking system can stop to prevent a collision. Even if it doesn’t prevent a crash, the damage and risk of injury are greatly minimized.

That study concluded that while the technology is good, it could certainly be better. But with the rapid increase in vehicle technology, expect further improvements over time. That could be self-driving technology, improved sensors, and data gathering to better predict when emergency braking is necessary.

So while it’s not perfect, if it can keep us all a little safer on dangerous roads, it’s a good thing. Make sure your next car has automatic emergency braking.

Cory Gunther Cory Gunther
Cory Gunther has been writing about phones, Android, cars, and technology in general for over a decade. He's a staff writer for Review Geek covering roundups, EVs, and news. He's previously written for GottaBeMobile, SlashGear, AndroidCentral, and InputMag, and he's written over 9,000 articles. Read Full Bio »