Automakers commit to put automatic brakes in all cars

September 11, 2015 byJoan Lowy
Automakers commit to put automatic brakes in all cars
In this May 19, 2015 file photo, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaks at the Transportation Department in Washington. Ten automakers have committed to the government to include automatic emergency braking in all new cars, a step safety advocates say could significantly reduce traffic deaths and injuries. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Ten automakers have committed to the government and a private safety group that they will include automatic emergency braking in all new cars, a step transportation officials say could significantly reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

But safety advocates were swift to criticize the effort as a backroom deal that allows to avoid the possibility that the Transportation Department will impose a legal requirement for inclusion of the braking systems in cars and set binding standards for the technology.

Making the technology widely available is part of a new era in vehicle safety in which the focus is on preventing crashes rather than on protecting occupants from their effects, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Friday in a statement announcing the commitments.

The announcement didn't specify a timetable for implementing the change. The automakers are Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. The manufacturers represented 57 percent of U.S. car and light truck sales in 2014.

The commitments were made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates automakers, and the Insurance Institute for Auto Safety, an industry group that researches and promotes safety.

The technology is already available in some vehicles, but typically as an option in higher-priced models like Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus. It is also often bundled with other features like heated seats or faux leather interiors, making the overall package more expensive.

"If technologies such as automatic emergency braking are only available as options or on the most expensive models, too few Americans will see the benefits of this new era," Foxx said.

Automatic includes a range of systems designed to address the large number of crashes, especially rear-end crashes, in which drivers do not apply the brakes or fail to apply sufficient braking power to avoid or mitigate a crash. The systems use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver and, if the driver does not take sufficient action, engage the brakes.

The systems could prevent or mitigate an estimated 80 percent of the auto and commercial truck rear-end collisions that cause about 1,700 deaths and a half million injuries annually, according to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board. There are about 1.7 million rear-end crashes each year in the U.S.

"This can't be voluntary," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "This needs a mandated safety standard with rigorous performance measures that trigger a recall if an automaker doesn't meet them."

Only through the government rulemaking process will consumer groups have the opportunity "to raise the hard questions," such as if a type of braking system is capable of stopping a car going 25 mph, then why not 50 mph, which is closer to highway speeds," he said.

The traffic safety administration and the insurance institute said they will set specific performance criteria for manufacturers to meet their voluntary commitments, and will determine how soon consumers can expect to see the technology as standard equipment.

The commitments from automakers don't mean the government has taken the possibility of issuing regulations on the braking systems "off the table," Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for the administration, said in an email.

"Today's announcement puts 10 automakers representing more than half of all light duty vehicle sales on the record as committed to making (automatic braking) standard on all their vehicles, and we expect that will accelerate the availability of that technology beyond what could be accomplished through rulemaking that could take several years," he said.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents most large automakers, didn't respond to request for comment from The Associated Press. As recently as June, the alliance told AP that it opposes any government requirement that automakers include automatic braking in their vehicles, saying it should be up to consumers to decide whether they wish to pay for the technology.

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dogbert
2.2 / 5 (10) Sep 11, 2015
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents most large automakers, didn't respond to request for comment from The Associated Press. As recently as June, the alliance told AP that it opposes any government requirement that automakers include automatic braking in their vehicles, saying it should be up to consumers to decide whether they wish to pay for the safety technology.


I don't see this as an issue of cost as much as a safety issue. I certainly do not want automatic breaking systems on any car I'm driving. It should remain an option and it should be an option which can be disabled by the user.
docile
Sep 11, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
dogbert
1 / 5 (7) Sep 11, 2015
If it includes an automatic warning for when you are travelling too close to the car in front - should save a lot of lives - without ever having to touch the brake. Seems a lot of people have never heard about safe following distance.


You really think we need another distraction?

I do not need a car telling me how to drive. No one can benefit from another distraction.
docile
Sep 11, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TehDog
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 11, 2015
Just adding another attack surface;
http://www.thereg...r_laser/

And given the horribly lax security of car systems at the moment, I really don't want anything programmable between me and my pedals.
RealScience
4.1 / 5 (9) Sep 11, 2015
Automatic things should have a manual override for unusual circumstances. For example, I have found that ABS can USUALLY stop faster than I can manually stop because it can adjust the braking many times a second to avoid a skid. However when there is even a few centimeters of sleet or slush on the road or over 10 cm of snow, skidding stops a car FASTER than ABS will because skidding plows up a mound of stuff that adds to the friction. My guess is that automatic braking will initially have several similar quirks where a good driver can do better in unusual situations.

An automatic warning for following too close shouldn't distract good drivers because they won't be too close. But it should still have an OFF switch - the normal rush-hour traffic in the Chicago 'Loop' only flows right if drivers break the normal 'too close' rule. This works because the cars drive in lockstep, so drivers can watch for brake lights on car several cars ahead.
EyeNStein
not rated yet Sep 12, 2015
There are already systems in production which flash the hazards to warn rearward drivers when you brake sharply, these should be mandatory in new cars.

Automatic cruise control systems already slow you down in congested situations. If engineered correctly this would be an enhancement and have a similar off switch and driver overrides.

To suit driver preferences it would need a graduated proximity scale from "Sunday driver" to "The full Audi" ;-)
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2015
In your scenario - if something happened - and the car in front of you jammed on their brakes - you would not have enough time to stop. The automatic system would do the job for you - unless you disabled it :-))


Which is why you watch the brakelights several cars ahead - not the car immediately in front of you. If the next car decides to brake for no good reason (automatic brakes malfunction!), then of course you are hosed.

The thought behind the system is good, but not practical. The automatic brakes introduces a new point of failure, makes cars less affordable to the ordinary people, and ends up causing worse accidents because people will put their trust in the techology which then fails to operate. It takes ~20 years to replace the vehicle fleet anyways, so for many years there will be a mix of ordinary cars and cars which may brake hard, randomly and unannouced, risking other road users.
.
Eikka
3 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2015
The main question is, whether the sensors which determine the braking condition are 1) sensitive enough to avoid false negatives, 2) without risking false positives from things like a plastic bag flying at the sensor, 3) robust/reliable enough to require little maintenance, 4) and cheap enough to be used in cars of all sizes and prices.

Especially on #4, if the system is cheap and simple and robust, it risks false positives and false negatives, which defeats the whole purpose. If it's not cheap, then any legislation that would mandate having the system in cars would work as a regressive tax on poor people and may indirectly cause more harm than it solves because it increases poverty.

Eikka
3.2 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2015
In the real world, drivers often have to make decisions like braking for a dog in front of the car, or running it over to avoid causing a pileup. Will the automatic braking sensor be intelligent enough to make that judgement, considering that it cannot assume the car behind is going to able to brake as fast?

In other words, is the technology there yet, or is the argument of whether automatic braking should be mandated by law again another debate between people who took the industry's hype too seriously and thought that these systems are more than marketing gimmicks?

KBK
not rated yet Sep 12, 2015
Of course, this will also likely enable every car to have 'Boston brakes'.....

Those dang pesky whistleblowers and associated people of integrity...
dogbert
2 / 5 (4) Sep 12, 2015
There is already a set of self braking cars which can be instructive of what happens when cars are equipped to stop themselves. Google cars do this now. Almost all the accidents the Google cars are involved in are the result of rear end collisions. The consistent preponderance of rear end collisions indicate that self braking cars actually cause such collisions.

RealScience
5 / 5 (4) Sep 12, 2015
...In your scenario - if ... the car in front of you jammed on their brakes - you would not have enough time to stop. The automatic system would do the job for you - unless you disabled it :-))


@greenonions - As pointed out, today the too-close scenario only works when the cars are traveling in lockstep (all drivers acting the same), so that the car in front will not slam on the brakes unless cars several in front of it slam on the brakes. That was an example of where I would shut off the TOO-CLOSE warning (or preferably adjust it to the situation) - I would certainly NOT disable AUTOMATIC BRAKING in that situation - that is an example of when it would be most useful!

In contrast, on a few-centimeter layer of slush I would shut off the ABS, and probably the automatic braking (I'd try it first in an empty parking lot with a cardboard 'obstacle' to see how it behaved), but I would crank up the too-close warning to its maximum distance (if it is adjustable).
dtxx
4.3 / 5 (4) Sep 12, 2015
There have been several occasions during my driving career that accelerating when most people would have the reaction to slam the breaks has kept me out of a wreck. One example is when a major spinout involving multiple cars smashing the divider and each other happened right in front of me. If I had hit the breaks, there is no way I could have avoided hitting the guy in front of me at at least 40mph. Instead I saw a lane through the spinning and smashing cars and nailed it. Shot right through. After I was past the accident I could still hear cars hitting the rear of the pile-up, so I would have been in at least 2 collisions that night.

But that's an exception. I'm not sure how I feel about this overall. I make an effort to really pay attention when I'm driving, probably because I've been in a really bad wreck. But most people are fucking texting while shaving and checking their teeth in the mirror while going 60mph.
abecedarian
5 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2015
And, obviously, this will do nothing to affect side-impact collisions.
abecedarian
3 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2015
There have been several occasions during my driving career that accelerating when most people would have the reaction to slam the breaks has kept me out of a wreck....
It's happened to me too.

This is a common thing taught in auto racing. If you're within a reasonable distance of the collision, accelerate and steer towards the point of impact if possible. The majority of the time, the cars involved in the collision will assume travel directions away from the impact point.
EyeNStein
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2015
Google cars don't have to cope with random human actions.
How should it cope if the driver pulls out into a moving gap that is theoretically too small for safety?
It should surrender manual control as no action is safe.
But then what if the car in front breaks unexpectedly, it should calculate safest breaking and steering manoeuvres. It could save several lives, but I wouldn't want to write the code.
dogbert
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2015

Google cars don't have to cope with random human actions.


Yes they do. And humans have to cope with random Google car actions. The random braking is causing a lot of rear end collisions. In packed traffic, you cannot steer away from a car in front of you slamming on the brakes unexpectedly.
TehDog
5 / 5 (4) Sep 12, 2015
@dogbert
"And humans have to cope with random Google car actions. The random braking is causing a lot of rear end collisions."

Try checking the facts next time, eh?
http://www.google...reports/
On a lighter note;
http://www.thereg...cyclist/
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Sep 12, 2015
In contrast, on a few-centimeter layer of slush I would shut off the ABS


I would not, because being able to steer is usually more important than being able to stop marginally faster. That's the major purpose of ABS - it also saves you from a spinout if there is a sudden gain or loss of traction at either side of the vehicle, such as sliding over a manhole cover with your brakes locked.

In a "few centimeter layer" of slush, I however would not drive fast enough to need ABS in the first place. If you're doing 60 mph on a highway at those conditions, you're practically suicidal, because it's so easy to spin out even if you're going dead straight. The slush compacts into ice and gets trampled into grooves which are filled with more slush that starts to throw you around randomly.

Eikka
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 12, 2015
The stupidest thing you can do in heavily slushed road conditions is to try to overtake another car on a passing lane. The main lane is kept clear by all the cars, but the passing lane isn't, and is covered in a layer of wet flurry.

Once you switch lanes, even if you try to steer straight, the car starts to track and oscillate and basically skate around on the slush. Any sudden steering action, braking or accelerating, will spin you. It's a harrowing experience - the oscillations just keep getting wider and wider and eventually you will spin.

You just have to try and steer back to the clear lane with little corrections before that happens, which is made more difficult by the fact that the slush drags you back, so the moment one pair of wheels are on the clear the slush pulls you back in.

One thing that does help is slamming the clutch, which eliminates the throttle steering effect, which is why automatics are scary to drive in the winter.
dogbert
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 12, 2015
TehDog,
Try checking the facts next time, eh?
http://www.google...reports/


You should actually read what you link to. As I said, Google cars are involved in a lot of rear end collisions. Almost all the accidents they are involved in are rear end collisions. Read your link. It says the same thing I did.

When you are involved in multiple collisions and almost all of them are the same type of accident, you can't ignore the likelihood that you are contributing to the accidents.
TehDog
5 / 5 (5) Sep 12, 2015
@dogbert
From the May report from the link I provided;
"In the six years of our project, we've been involved in 12 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident."

Did you really imagine I would cite a source without checking it first?
You made a claim,
"Google cars are involved in a lot of rear end collisions."
without any evidence. I'd suggest that 12 in 1.8Mm is not "a lot". It's about 1 in every 150,000 miles.
dogbert
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2015
TehDog,
In the six years of our project, we've been involved in 12 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.


Of course Google always says they did not contribute to the accidents. If I were running their self driving car program, I would say that my cars were never at fault. Nevertheless, when almost all your accidents are the same accident, you cannot discount your own contribution to those accidents.

I'd suggest that 12 in 1.8Mm is not "a lot". It's about 1 in every 150,000 miles.


Yes. One rear end collision approximately every 150,000 miles.

Have you ever been rear ended? I haven't and I have driven a lot of miles. Anyone can be involved in an accident, but when you keep getting rear ended, you cannot discount your contribution to those accidents.
TehDog
5 / 5 (5) Sep 12, 2015
@dogbert
You didn't bother to read that report, if you had, you'd have seen the details on those 12 collisions. Perhaps you could read it, and point out which accidents were caused by the google car while in autonomous mode?
EyeNStein
5 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2015
Google cars don't have to cope with random human actions.

You're right of course they do: In so far as they are surrounded by human driven cars.
I meant that they don't yet have to continuously arbitrate autonomy with the human 'driver' in the car: That would be difficult, and unpopular, to engineer satisfactorily: Even though the statistics support machine overriding man on occasions.
Part of the reason flying is so safe is the "safety envelope" maintained by modern avionics, until specifically countermanded by the pilot.
dogbert
2 / 5 (4) Sep 12, 2015
TehDog,
You didn't bother to read that report, if you had, you'd have seen the details on those 12 collisions.


Your arrogant accusation of ignorance is simply insulting. It has no meaning. I read those reports long before this article was published and before this thread. Google does not hide these reports.

The details of the collisions are irrelevant. If the accidents were randomly caused by other drivers, they would be expected to be randomized in the type of accidents. But they are not. They are almost all rear end collisions. When you have the same accident over and over, you cannot dismiss your own contribution to those accidents.

ABS's are dangerous for many reasons:

* An increase in rear end collisions as demonstrated by Google cars.

* Removal of control from the driver which can be expected to cause accidents which the driver could otherwise have avoided.

* Excessive loss of control when the vehicle is on slick roads -- particularly on snow and ice.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2015
The Google cars probably obeyed the letter of the law in a situation where a human driver familiar with the customs of the road would have obeyed those customs instead.

An example of this would be stopping at a yellow light when not being able to clear the intersection before the light turns to red. Humans know that most traffic lights (at least in the US and Canada) are red both ways for a few seconds, providing time to sneak through one or even two more cars than technically is legal. So if a Google car violates the custom and actually stops, it is not surprising that it would get read-ended every now and then, and yet Google could say that the other car is legally at fault. It is a case where actually obeying the letter of the law increases danger to yourself and others.
TehDog
5 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2015
@RealScience
The 1st incident in April, as reported in http://static.goo...0515.pdf
is a similar case. Anticipating the behavior of the driver in front is always a no-no, unless you and they are pro racing drivers. Always assume they're an idiot who doesn't know their wipers from their indicators.
TehDog
5 / 5 (5) Sep 12, 2015
@dogbert
"I read those reports long before this article was published and before this thread."
Quite frankly, I don't believe you.
"The details of the collisions are irrelevant."
Erm, wtf...
"*Some more unsubstantiated allegations*"

You make these claims, provide some evidence to support them.
RealScience
5 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2015
Thanks. TehDog. I had seen a summary but not the details.

The Oct 2012 and Oct 2013 match the stopping-when-a-human-wouldn't-have scenario, and the July 2014 and first April 2015 incidents might be other too-cautious behavior.
However there is not enough detail in the incident reports to confirm this.

But in several cases the Google car was stopped behind traffic, so there was nothing that it could do. That that happened a couple of times per million miles is reasonable - I've driven a bit over 500,000 miles, and it happened once to me - I was behind two other cars at a light (and had been stopped for about 10 seconds), when someone rear-ended me at about 30 km/h.

As for anticipating the behavior of the driver in front, I always assume that any driver can be an idiot at any time. I found driving in Chicago's Loop during rush hour quite unsettling because I had to trust other drivers. But it actually works (a special case), and traffic would grind to a halt without it!
Eikka
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2015
without any evidence. I'd suggest that 12 in 1.8Mm is not "a lot". It's about 1 in every 150,000 miles.


That is a lot. If the typical lifetime of a car is around 150,000 miles, that would mean every single car on the road would be virtually guaranteed to get rear-ended sooner or later. If that was the norm, you'd see every other car on the road with dinged bumpers or worse.

Mayday
5 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2015
The idea of some automated control sounds good, but the technology is nowhere near ready. I drive a car with various warning sensors of "unsafe" situations. I'll admit that they are helpful on occasion, but if they applied the brakes instead of just beeping, I would definitely get a different car. Maybe one in ten beeps actual requires a braking or course correction response. It mostly gets it wrong.
Remember, if these systems do become required, the lawyers will require that they be dialed up to full safety response. Anyone who elects to turn them down or off(!) will be risking their financial future and insurability. Better plan on leaving a whole lot of extra time to get where you're going!
dogbert
1 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2015
TehDog,
Quite frankly, I don't believe you.

Twice you have called me a liar. You are not the only person who can Google and you are not the only person who can read.

You make these claims, provide some evidence to support them.


I did. Your link gives all the information necessary. Google cars are involved in a lot of rear end collisions, far more than the average human driver. The frequency of these collisions and the fact that these cars are involved almost exclusively in rear end collisions is evidence to support the conclusion that Google cars are contributing to rear end collisions.

As to the loss of control a driver will experience with ABS's, that is self evident. Control of a vehicle is lost when the brakes are engaged. Control can sometimes be recovered if the brakes are released, but the driver has no such ability with ABS's.
ScottyB
5 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2015
The automatic breaking will be for emergency breaking only, so if you don't see or respond to a child running in the road or don't notice that car in front has stopped because you're too busy looking at your phone. 99.9% of the time the driver will be in control of the breaks.

why are so many of you against this, it is a no-brainer that this should be introduced.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2015
It doesn't change anything regarding the culpability. You're still responsible for driving your car (unless the automatic braking mechanism actively causes a crash which would otherwise have been avoided. An unlikely scenario)

There are automated systems in cars (e.g. air bags) which work with high reliability. If these systems can be shown to work with similar reliability and few false positives then it's OK to include them.
(And for some silly reason I still want the electronics in cars completely offline and unconnected to any other systems that might be hackable - like infotainment systems. If automatic braking systems ciuld be hacked that would be nasty.)

So if a Google car violates the custom and actually stops, it is not surprising that it would get read-ended every now and then

As a driver you're responsible for safety first. THEN the ruels (and NEVER any unwritten rules). If your crash-free driving relies on unwritten rules you don't belong on the road.
RealScience
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2015
why are so many of you against this, it is a no-brainer that this should be introduced.


I, for one, am not against it.
I just want a manual override for unusual situations which it can't handle (and over time I expect such features to get smarter and smarter).

If your crash-free driving relies on unwritten rules you don't belong on the road.

That's nice in theory, but in actual practice driving safely involves respecting the customs of the road as well as the written rules. For example, if you try driving at merely the posted speed limit on many highways around here you will snarl traffic at best, and sometimes even cause accidents as people swerve around you.

I agree that "As a driver you're responsible for safety first"; therefore you are responsible for respecting the customs as well as the written rules since safety depends on this.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2015
I do not need a car telling me how to drive
Yeah you do. The AI that exists now is a much better driver than you.
Google cars are involved in a lot of rear end collisions
Yes, ALL caused when other cars rear-ended THEM. If those human drivers had had auto braking the google cars would not have been hit once.

"A Google self-driving car was rear-ended once again
"Google self-driving cars have gotten into more than a dozen accidents since the search-engine giant started letting them on the roads back in 2009. But none of them have been Google's fault.

"... one of the company's Lexus vehicles was approaching an intersection in which the light was green, "but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection." As the self-driving car slowed to avoid this traffic, a car rear ended it."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2015
Google cars are involved in a lot of rear end collisions, far more than the average human driver
Well thats not true either.

"Urmson writes, "National crashes-per-miles-driven rates are currently calculated on police-reported crashes. Yet there are millions of fender benders every year that go unreported and uncounted — potentially as many as 55% of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."

"He argues that this means that the toll of bad human driving, at least in terms of money spent on repairs and aggravation, is perhaps even higher than the most widely reported statistics would have us believe."

-These changes will be insurance-driven and mandatory. You may perhaps be able to turn them off but when you do the car will report you and your rates will automatically jump.

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