How Automatic Braking Systems Work

Automatic braking systems combine sensors, brake controls and processing units to help prevent high-speed collisions. Some automatic braking systems apply the brakes for you so collisions are prevented but most are designed to simply reduce the speed of a vehicle before a collision can occur.

How they work

Each car manufacturer has their own automatic braking system design and outline of how they should work. In general, they all start the automatic braking process by monitoring motion sensors. These sensors are usually radar or laser sensors mounted on the front of the vehicle. In some cases, a front mounted camera is used to sense objects ahead of the car. The data from these sensors is then fed to a microprocessor that analyzes it and if an impending collision is detected, then the appropriate braking is applied.

GPS systems

Some systems tie their automatic braking control to GPS sensors. This allows them to tie their braking system to a database of stop signs and other traffic control mechanisms. The operation of a system like this is ingenious. If the processing unit senses that a driver is about to run a stop sign, it can activate the braking system. Kims Toyota of Laurel, a local Toyota dealer in Laurel, MS, says that the next generation of Toyota automatic braking systems is said to sense the vehicles speed in addition to location and then take appropriate action.


Photo Courtesy of Toyota

Secondary use

The primary use of automatic brakes is functioning as a collision avoidance system. In addition to collision avoidance systems, though, many cars use the same technology in their adaptive cruise control systems. These systems measure the speed of a leading vehicle and make sure that your vehicle doesn’t speed up on it. This is generally done by reducing the vehicle speed via the throttle.

Do I really need automatic Brakes?

No, you don’t have to have automatic brakes, but you might want to. Issue number one is that everyone has a lapse in attention once in a while. Obviously, an automatic braking system is a great technology to have if this ever happens to you. Another critical use would be to take control of the car if you fall asleep behind the wheel. While this is a rare occurrence, people do fall asleep while driving and fatal results can occur.

How to Find a Vehicle with Automatic Braking

Most automakers today offer at least one model that offers either adaptive cruise control or a collision avoidance system. Since automatic braking is so effective at reducing fatal collisions, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety maintains a list of vehicles that come equipped with specific advanced collision avoidance features like automatic braking.


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