Advanced braking technologies are starting to dribble out into the new car market, and that dribble will become a steady flow once the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) takes an expected next step. The NHTSA is already fairly far along on defining test procedures for Dynamic Brake Support (DBS) and Crash Imminent Braking (CIB) systems. These go beyond the forward collision warning (FCW) systems already found in many new cars by actually engaging the brakes when a driver, at fairly slow speeds, gets too close to the car in front of him. The NHTSA is now deciding whether to incorporate those tests into a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) or add DBS/CIB systems to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) “stars” rating system, as has been the case with FCW systems. A car’s NCAP rating, however, only notes whether the vehicle offers FCW; it does not assign any of five stars to the feature.
Those advanced braking technologies have been creeping into new cars, but slowly, and only in upscale autos. Only one manufacturer, Volvo, makes the technology standard equipment (XC60, S60, XC70 and S80). Volvo’s City Safety works if the driver is going between two and 19 miles an hour. Acura (CMBS) and Mercedes-Benz (Distronic plus) also offer a similar feature as an option. The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) reported in July that its comparison of Volvo, Acura and Mercedes models with and without CIB showed that the “with” models had property damage liability (PDL) claim frequencies that ranged between 10 and 14 percent lower. The NHTSA preliminarily estimates the number of equivalent lives saved by a combination of (FCW), DBS and CIB systems to be over 1,000 annually.
A number of vendors are manufacturing CIB/DBS systems. Jeremy McClain, Continental’s Manager of Systems and Technology in NAFTA, says, “Continental is a leading supplier of DBS/CIB systems and/or the supporting components, which are in production with multiple manufacturers today.” He does not expect them to be sold in the aftermarket. “CIB systems, by definition, involve some level of automated braking of the vehicle and therefore, due to the safety-critical nature of such system activations, no aftermarket solution is currently available or foreseen by Continental,” he explains.
Mark Medawar, director of Retail Sales in North America for Mobileye, which makes the software in many FCW systems, agrees that advanced braking systems are unlikely to get into the aftermarket, but not because of technology limitations. Installer liability would be the big roadblock. The more likely aftermarket product, he says, is a refinement in adaptive cruise control where a driver can maintain a set distance between his car and the car in front of him. The liability issue probably doesn’t come into play there because the driver has put the car in cruise control.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is pressing the NHTSA to require advanced braking systems on new cars via a new FMVSS. The NTSB has been making recommendations since the mid-1990s to that effect, based on mostly truck accidents. “The NTSB believes that it is long overdue for NHTSA to move forward on rulemaking that will mandate these important lifesaving technologies on all newly manufactured vehicles,” says Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB.
But auto manufacturers seem mostly united behind including an NCAP rating for DBS/CIB systems. “Once a better understanding of these technologies is achieved, Crash Avoidance NCAP would be a preferable alternative to regulation,” says Gay Kent, Director
Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness, General Motors. “This will encourage consumer demand for CIB and/or OBS and is similar to the approach taken for Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). Advanced braking situations are considerably more complex and warrant a conservative introduction.”