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As our cars get smarter and smarter, drivers are becoming more trusting — and more reliant — on their vehicles’ “autonomous” features such as lane assist warnings, adaptive cruise control and self-braking. The problem? Many drivers don’t understand exactly how their cars ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) work, putting them — and everyone on the road with them — at risk. 

For example, did you know that not all self-braking systems are designed to stop you from crashing? They’re actually calibrated to lessen the impact of the crash. That means if you’re tailgating the car in front of your trusting that your vehicle will stop on a dime and keep you safe, you’ll be sorely mistaken should you really need to stop quickly. 

“AAA found that two-thirds of Americans familiar with the technology believe that automatic emergency braking systems are designed to avoid crashes without driver intervention,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “The reality is that today’s systems vary greatly in performance, and many are not designed to stop a moving car.” — AAA

Here are some fast facts from the AAA study that might concern you: 

  • The systems designed to prevent crashes only did so in 60 percent of the crash scenarios at 30 mph differentials tested 
  • In those same scenarios, the cars designed to simply lessen crash severity only avoided a crash in 33 percent of the tests (in other words, you have a 1 in 3 chance of hitting the car in front of you) 

And while the self-braking system will help reduce speeds when you’re driving faster than 30 mph, it’s even more likely to fail to prevent a crash the faster you’re going. 

Now that doesn’t mean the technology is useless. As AAA puts it…

“Automatic emergency braking systems have the potential to drastically reduce the risk of injury from a crash,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “When traveling at 30 mph, a speed reduction of just 10 mph can reduce the energy of crash impact by more than 50 percent.”

But drivers should read their vehicle manuals and know what kind of emergency braking system their car is equipped with before putting all their trust in it. It definitely doesn’t mean you can safely tailgate, text-and-drive, or — of course — fall asleep at the wheel.  

Read more about self-braking technology and AAA’s study here

Does your vehicle have a self-braking system? 

If so, make sure all your vehicle’s repairs are made at an ADAS-compliant facility. As you can imagine, the sensors and cameras in your vehicle must be calibrated properly to ensure the self-braking tech actually work as intended. If they aren’t recalibrated exactly, it could increase your chances of crashing. Learn more about Cape Auto’s state-of-the-art ADAS Calibration Equipment here