Could compulsory AEB technology stop whiplash road crashes?

Could compulsory AEB technology stop whiplash road crashes

A new report has concluded that if all UK cars were fitted with autonomous emergency braking systems (AEB) then the accident toll on British roads could be reduced by ten per cent.

Motoring research organisation Thatcham issued the report which estimated that making AEB compulsory would prevent 160,000 whiplash injuries each year.

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Many whiplash sufferers have good reason to wish that AEB systems were standard fittings on all vehicles. But in terms of cost and practicality how feasible would this be…

About whiplash

Statistically, a car accident is the most likely cause of whiplash – a condition which occurs as a result of the head jolting violently. Around one in four collisions occur at speeds of less than 30mph – just fast enough to cause a painful and long-lasting whiplash injury.

About AEB

AEB enables vehicles to ‘anticipate’ an imminent collision and apply the brakes without the driver’s input. Different systems can make use of technology such as radar, video, infrared and ultrasonic to detect possible collision risks.

The advantages of AEB, as the figures produced by Thatcham suggest, are clear to see. But there are some possible problems with current AEB technology. 

These include:

The technology creating a false sense of security among drivers not used to the limitations and operation of the system. Knowing you have a safety net can result in more reckless driving

They can be costly to maintain and/or fix if they get out of calibration

AEB often does not act so quickly on very loose surfaces like gravel or snow; the increased braking distances needed to drive carefully in certain conditions can challenge even the best of systems

AEB will stop working below a certain speed; often 3 or 4MPH. This seems like a speed below which there is little danger but switching from having the safety net of AEB to suddenly needing driving input can carry risks (especially on icy roads)

The cost of AEB

Many modern cars are automatically fitted with AEB. Those which use radar are more costly but can see further ahead and are often more effective than cheaper systems at higher speeds.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s research manager, told BBC News: “AEB systems are normally the price of a stereo or sat-nav upgrade.”

Will AEB become compulsory?

As skid-prevention technology will become a legal requirement on all new models later this year then there seems a good chance of similar AEB legislation appearing soon on the statute books.

Additional ways of preventing whiplash

Thatcham’s website stresses how drivers’ and passenger’s posture can affect the chances of suffering whiplash injuries. Thatcham advises that drivers are often “out of position” at the time of impact; for example if they are leaning forward to see around a corner at a junction or a roundabout.

It recommends that pro-active head restraints are capable of detecting a rear impact and deploying accordingly by springing forward and offering extra protection early on (the crucial time) in the crash phase.

Taking the necessary precautions can prevent the pain and inconvenience which is so often caused by whiplash.