There has been a lot of talk about the ‘driverless’ car but, as we all know, the fully autonomous car is some time away. As we progress to this, however, more and more autonomous technologies are becoming available in new cars today and manufacturers are leading the charge.
The reality of a completely driverless vehicle fleet may not exist in our lifetimes, but there is no doubt the next leap in vehicle safety lies with the ongoing development and greater uptake of autonomous technologies, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). It is widely held that as human error is believed to be a factor in over 90 per cent of crashes, autonomous safety technologies will play a significant role in reducing road crashes and subsequent injuries – or worse, loss of life.
Consumer interest in AEB is therefore growing. A significant proportion of consumers (41%) rated AEB as an important safety feature when buying a new car, showing a progression of consumer knowledge beyond the passive safety features like airbags and seat belts.
Although AEB technologies are being labeled differently by each manufacturer – from Forward Collision Mitigation (Mitsubishi) to Pre Sense Plus (Audi) – they all provide the assistance of either an audible, visual or vibration warning to the driver, followed by automatic braking should the driver not respond in time to avoid a collision. Australian research has shown that increased fitment rates of these technologies in our fleet could reduce road fatalities by up to 25 per cent, saving hundreds of lives.
And fitment is the key. We can’t rely on regulation or a single stream of influence to boost fitment. Regulation takes years to introduce and manufacturers won’t necessarily make it a standard offering of their own volition. Encouragement is needed from Dealers – and those sales representatives on the showroom floor – to show consumers the benefits of AEB and encourage them to purchase a car that has it. Right now that might mean encouraging them to opt for the additional safety or driver assistance pack.
Looking at the top 100 selling models available in Australia between January and October last year, only six had AEB standard on all variants. 67 were not available with any form of AEB; 16 had AEB available but this was only offered on higher-spec variants (not available at all on the base variant), and only 11 had AEB available as an option on the base variant.
Encouraging consumers to purchase AEB and other autonomous safety technologies in their new cars will send to manufacturers a message of the increasing demand for these technologies. Greater consumer demand will help tip the scale and force manufacturers to include it as standard rather than an optional extra.
The Australian automotive industry has a way to go.
Recently, 20 USA manufacturers – which make up 99 per cent of the industry – committed make AEB standard on all new vehicles by 2022. While on face value this sounds great, 2022 is some seven years away – an eternity when we consider the pace at which the industry can and is moving. In just over 18 months it will be difficult for a new vehicle to achieve a 5-star ANCAP safety rating without AEB as standard.
We all have a key role to play in educating consumers about the benefits of AEB and other autonomous safety technologies as they come into the market. It is encouragement from those at the point-of-sale, demand from consumers and pressure from ANCAP that will force manufacturers to act and cause the road toll to decrease.
Let’s work together to increase fitment rates of AEB. It’s a win for the consumer, for the Dealer and for all road users who will benefit from safer cars.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is Australasia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate. ANCAP provides consumers with transparent information on the level of occupant and pedestrian protection and collision avoidance capabilities provided by different vehicle models in the most common types of serious crashes.
1ANCAP Brand Tracking Research, March 2016
2Anderson RWG, Doecke SD, Mackenzie JRR, Ponte G, ‘Potential benefits of autonomous emergency braking based on in-depth crash reconstruction and simulation’, 2013
3ANCAP Analysis of the Availability of Autonomous Emergency Braking, December 2015.