Collision Avoidance and Autonomous Emergency Braking

Collision Avoidance and Autonomous Emergency Braking

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 09:26

With millions of cars on the road, collisions are just a matter of fact - they will occur even under the best conditions. Other factors such as impairment, driver and mechanical error, and environmental conditions only serve to increase the likelihood that a given driver will at one point be involved in a collision. Fortunately, both electric and hybrid vehicles come equipped with a number of safety features - collision avoidance and autonomous emergency braking among them - that play a significant role in helping drivers avoid potentially life-threatening accidents. 

cars driving on highway

Photo by Aleksandr Popov on Unsplash

Modern vehicles are marvels of technology and engineering that go beyond performance and fuel economy. Due to their robust safety systems, traveling our nation’s roads and highways has never been safer. In this article, we’ll explore two very important components of a vehicle’s safety system - collision avoidance and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

An Overview of Collision Avoidance Systems

A collision avoidance system, like the one found in many modern vehicles, assists in the prevention of motor vehicle accidents by alerting and aiding drivers in the moments leading up to a potential incident. These systems perform this function thanks to numerous supporting technologies, including radar/laser, GPS, sensors, and cameras. Individually, these components monitor a very specific range of data; together, they detect everything that is happening in the vehicle’s vicinity. On board computers then process that data and either alert the driver to the danger via a dashboard display, vibration, or adjust the vehicle’s speed or navigation controls to avoid the obstacle. For example, if the driver has become incapacitated and is unable to react to the alerts communicated by the collision avoidance system, the system could apply the brakes or otherwise override the vehicle controls in order to reduce the severity or avoid the accident entirely.

Collision avoidance systems rely on a number of ancillary systems to be effective. These consist of both Driver Alert Systems and Driver Assist Systems.  

Driver Alert Systems
These systems utilize warnings to communicate to the driver that a collision is imminent. 

  • Blind Spot Warnings: As the name implies, a warning will display when the system detects another vehicle in the driver’s blind spot. 
  • Cross Traffic Warnings: This warning uses radar to detect pedestrians, cyclists, or other vehicles that may be approaching in directions perpendicular to the direction of travel. This type of warning is generally communicated via an audible alarm. 
  • Forward Collision Warnings: This warning is generated when a vehicle’s forward-facing cameras and radar detect an obstacle in the road ahead. This functionality is like Pedestrian Detection Warnings, which use the same components to detect pedestrians and cyclists in the roadway. If a pedestrian is detected this may prompt the collision avoidance system to engage the appropriate Driver Assist System (covered below). 
  • Lane Departure Warnings: This warning is generated when on-board cameras detect that the vehicle may imminently be departing the lane.

Driver Assist Systems
These systems take a more active role in collision avoidance by overriding some of the vehicle’s controls, depending on the situation.  

  • Adaptive Cruise Control: Data collected using onboard radar and lasers can be used to adjust the user configured cruise control in order to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. 
  • Automatic Emergency Braking: This system applies the brakes if the data collected by the vehicle’s sensors indicates that a collision is imminent. 
  • Electronic Stability Control: Similar to Automatic Emergency Braking, Electronic Stability Control Systems apply the brakes to help steer the vehicle when tracking is lost. 
  • Rear Automatic Emergency Braking: This system will automatically engage the brakes when an object is detected behind the vehicle.

Understanding the Importance of Autonomous Emergency Braking

Of the various systems listed above, perhaps none are as important as the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) System. AEB is advantageous for a number of reasons, increasingly so when it comes to distracted driving. Distracted driving has become endemic as the number of distracted drivers on the road continues to rise. During a recent survey conducted on behalf of CAA South Central Ontario, 44% of Ontario drivers acknowledge having driven while distracted, a figure 4% higher than that presented in 2022. As lawmakers attempt to solve the problem through heavy fines, AEB can help mitigate or even prevent serious injuries or fatalities should the driver find themselves in a situation where a collision is no longer avoidable.

Brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution are often components of the AEB system. These ensure that the max brake force is applied to all brakes when an emergency braking situation is detected.  AEB, and by extension, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution is made possible using radar technology. While driving, the vehicle’s radar system is constantly collecting data pertaining to the distance between a driver’s vehicle and the vehicle ahead of them. As soon as the radar system determines the space between vehicles is diminishing at a high rate of speed, the system will engage. Though the system may vary from one manufacturer to another, the systems are computer-controlled and far exceed the reaction time of even the best and most attentive driver.

Outlook for the Technology Moving Forward

It’s clear roads and highways are getting more and more congested. Paired with less-than-ideal driving conditions and an upward trend in distracted driving, it’s clear, even from just a position of common sense, that this technology will continue to be developed and installed in more make and models of vehicles. From a financial perspective, the automotive collision avoidance system segment was valued at over $40 billion dollars (USD) in 2020. By some estimates, that valuation is expected to more than double by the year 2026. Of course, with the supply chain disruptions attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, investment in these technologies wilted for a period of time. Post-pandemic investment in collision avoidance is back on track bolstered by the projected increase in autonomous vehicles that are expected to be manufactured.

Another growth factor that will likely further the development of this technology revolves around government regulations. Many countries are looking to improve road safety and that simply can’t be achieved without the kind of assistive technologies whose primary purpose is to avoid collisions with objects on the roads. Case and point, the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States released a top 10 list of most desired transportation safety improvements. Naturally, technologies that can be installed in vehicles to enhance passenger safety – collision avoidance systems among them – made the list. All of this is to say that the outlook for assistive and collision avoidance technology looks very, very strong.

Collision Avoidance and AEB Has Revolutionized Road Safety

 Automotive collision avoidance systems are designed to mitigate the occurrence of crashes by interpreting and processing data collected from the environment by sensors and adapting accordingly. As such, these technologies will be a key component of most if not all next gen vehicles rolling off the assembly line. Given the post-pandemic demand for these systems, a new wave of technicians will be needed to install and maintain these systems. If you’d like to learn more about electric vehicles develop the skills  to service and maintain them, speak to a George Brown College Program Coordinator today.

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