Stopping on a dime has never been easier

by Jim Kerr . Apr 08 2016

I may be old enough to remember when anti-lock brakes became common on passenger vehicles, but I’m not old enough to remember when it was first used on aircraft — way back in 1929.

Passenger vehicle manufacturers introduced ABS systems in 1971 on limited models but it wasn’t till the 1980s that these systems became common, first on luxury vehicles and then progressively on lower-priced models. Now the same is happening for automated braking systems.

Toyota recently announced most of its Toyota and Lexus models will have automated braking as standard equipment by the end of 2017. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also announced other manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo will also make automated braking available as standard equipment, but the timelines for this to happen have not been established yet. When you include Toyota, this represents over half the vehicles sold in North America. So what is automated braking?

Automated braking is a safety system that automatically applies the brakes when sensors detect an object in front of the vehicle. Currently, this type of technology has been available on many luxury models as part of their advanced cruise-control systems, but just like ABS did, automated braking systems are becoming more economical to manufacture and are now appearing on many models.

Toyota calls its automated braking system AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking) and it will be the main technology in the Toyota Safety Sense and Lexus Safety System that are composed of several safety technologies such as lane departure alert and automatic high beam. These combined safety systems often use the same sensing components so grouping them together as a safety package makes sense. Toyota is actually offering two versions of their Safety Sense package: Safety Sense C and Safety Sense P.

The Safety Sense C package combines camera and laser beam inputs to provide three safety technologies. The pre-collision with vehicle detection feature uses both the camera and laser beam to detect a vehicle ahead. When the system determines there is a possibility of a collision, it will notify the driver with audio and visual alerts at vehicle speeds between 10 to 140 km/h so the driver can take action. The system can provide additional braking force if the driver doesn’t apply enough brakes and if the driver does not react, the system can apply the brakes automatically to reduce the speed by approximately 30 km/h. About 80 per cent of rear end collisions occur when vehicle relative speeds are between 10 and 80 km/h, so the system will reduce the impact of a collision or possibly even prevent it if vehicle relative speeds are lower.

Lane departure alert is the second part of the C package and it uses the camera to detect white and yellow lane markings. If the vehicle unintentionally departs from the lane, the system warns the driver with audio and visual alerts so the driver can steer the vehicle back to the center of the lane.

The third part of the C package is automatic high beam. The system uses the camera to detect the headlights and tail lights of other traffic and will switch the headlights between high and low beam automatically to give the driver the best possible vision at night.

Safety Sense P is an enhancement on the C-package. Safety Sense P adds millimetre-wave radar to the camera and laser sensors. This package is now able to detect pedestrians with camera recognition software as well as vehicles for improved safety. The technology also enables Toyota to add dynamic radar cruise control that will automatically maintain a set distance behind other vehicles on the highway when the cruise is on. The additional radar sensing also allows automatic emergency braking that will slow the vehicle up to 40 km/h to reduce or prevent collisions.

Another added feature is automatic steering correction for the lane departure system. If the vehicle departs from a lane unintentionally, the steering will provide a small amount of assist to help the driver move back to the centre of the lane.

How many times in your driving history have you made a lane change and shoulder-checked only to look forward again to find the vehicle in front of you has suddenly braked. This sequence alone has caused many rear end collisions, and something the automatic braking systems being introduced on many new vehicles will help to prevent.

That’s a good thing!