22 Feb
Could autonomous braking save your life?

Could automatic braking be the future of fleet safety?

Whether it's ensuring efficiency through the use of fuel cards or ensuring that vehicles are passing their maintenance checks, there are plenty of worries for a fleet manager. The last thing that you want to be concerned over is the safety of your workers, but unfortunately even the best drivers can have accidents.

Bad conditions, poorly maintained roads or even simple fatigue can turn an otherwise uneventful drive into a dangerous gamble.

It's a good thing that we may be seeing safety features above and beyond mere airbags and seatbelts in the near future. Autonomously detecting and reducing the speed of a vehicle in the case of incoming crashes, should automatic braking become the norm in New Zealand?

Automatic braking could be spelling a safer future for New Zealand drivers.Automatic braking could be spelling a safer future for New Zealand drivers.

A matter of debate

While groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have argued for the inclusion of automatic braking as a standard feature, there has been some pushback from automotive manufacturers in the United States.

"Regulations can be too rigid when technology like this is changing quickly," said IIHS Spokesperson Russ Rader to the Associated Press on February 18.

"A complicated regulation could make it more difficult for the automakers and their suppliers to continue to develop the systems."

These statements follow a number of concessions that the United States government has made for the manufacturers, including a lengthy commencement phase that will see automatic braking only appear in full in 2025, as well limiting the minimum speed reduction to a mere 5mph.

A small change with a big difference

"A complicated regulation could make it more difficult for the automakers and their suppliers to continue to develop the systems."

New Zealand saw 329 deaths on our roads in 2015, as well as 12,029 injuries in the 12 months leading up to August 2015 – with the second worst outcomes coming as a result of going too fast for the conditions and the fourth worst from being distracted.

All things that automatic braking could prevent. Could this new technology find a home in New Zealand?

A study from the IIHS found that automatic braking reduced rear-end crashes by 40 per cent, and simple automatic warnings reducing them by 23 per cent. Even a 5kph reduction could be the difference between a fatal crash and a minor ding, according to Professor Ian Johnston from the Monash University Accident Research Centre. Clearly, there is something to be said for the efficacy of this particular safety system, and it is unsurprising so many are calling for it to be mandatory.

So could we be seeing a safety revolution in the automotive industry? It seems we may have to wait until 2025.