Australia and Victoria have a good record on enforcing safety features like electronic stability control, but Autonomous Emergency Braking isn’t the save-all the TAC claims it is.

TAKE A LOOK at the photo above.  It’s a clear, message, isn’t it?  Says if there’s danger, the car will brake.

Unfortunately, that’s misleading.  Here’s what it should be:


The fact is that Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and other proactive tech like lane departure warnings, blind spot detection and driver drowsiness detection are in their infancy so cannot be relied upon.   

Ask any of the manufacturers and they will tell you the same, and our tests prove the point. We’ve got a detailed description of AEB and its limitations here, but in short – AEB cannot always detect danger, may not detect it in time, and even if it does detect the danger in what it thinks is enough time, the system cannot always always stop the car before impact. Might slow it down a bit first though.

Does this unreliability mean the technology should be avoided? Not at all. It should be made mandatory as soon as possible as the evidence is there that it can reduce the road toll. From

“An Australian AEB simulation project estimates that AEB has the potential to reduce fatal crashes by 20-25% and injury crashes by 25-35% (Anderson, Doecke, Mackenzie & Ponte, 2013). Research utilising insurance claims data have also found that forward collision avoidance systems, especially those that brake autonomously, showed the biggest claim reductions of 10-14% (Moore & Zuby, 2013)”

So good on the government for promoting it. But that promotion has to be done with the caveat of the driver still taking responsibility. As indeed the same website says:

“It is important to note that AEB systems are designed to support the driver only in emergency situations and that the driver remains responsible for the vehicle at all times.”

Now that’s a better message, not as punchy but more accurate. Maybe the sign above could be “Auto Emergency Braking cuts the chance of fatal collisions by up to 25%”. 

But are we making too fine a point?  Think someone wouldn’t blindly rely on technology?  We have only to look at GPS navigation where many people have followed satnav directions past closed-road signs, or onto 4X4 tracks and ended up in real trouble.   Today, we are more reliant and trusting of technology than ever before.

Yet as far as car tech is concerned we’re at this kind of half-way house where it is good enough to lull into a false sense of security, but not good enough to rely on.

Practical Motoring’s view is that new car buyers should prioritise advanced safety features including AEB, but must rely only on their own skills and observation to stay safe.

If AEB has to kick in to save you, you’ve failed as a driver because you weren’t paying enough attention or taking too great a risk.

Here’s the TAC’s advert for AEB:


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  1. Until a proper. standardised testing a rating regime is also implemented, these active safety features will remain the “Mystery Meat” options when buying a car.

    The difference in capability from system to system varies wildly, and I feel it’s important buyers really know what they’re getting, and how it compares to competitor cars.

    Some of these “Front collision” systems don’t have the ability brake at all, others are easily tricked at parking speeds, others simply disengage once the vehicle is travelling faster than city speeds. Blanketing them all with a single checkbox is just plain wrong.

  2. Good article Robert. The driver should always be aware (awake) of what is happening. I feel that the current driver training / instruction system is sub-standard, with poor driving skills being ignored for the sake of quota. Needs an overhaul, and the sooner the better. Not everyone can afford ‘advanced driver training’, but I think it needs to be made affordable, and used as part of the qualifications before a licence is issued.

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