Automated brakes could halve injuries from rear-end crashes

A combination of three automated car braking systems could save your life and cut in half the average chance of being injured in a rear-end collision, according to researchers at Virginia Tech.

At 17 percent, rear-end collisions are the second-most frequent kind of automobile crash. And the solution, said biomedical engineering professor Clay Gabler, is simple:

“Slow the striking vehicle.”

Gabler and PhD student Kristofer Kusano are studying the potential benefits of a suite of collision-avoidance systems now available as options on some new cars.

The three systems — a warning system, brake assistance and autonomous braking — could work independently or in sequence to prevent collisions or minimize their impact.

The first system signals a warning 1.7 seconds before a potential crash. The second provides brake assistance if the driver hits the brakes. And the third — which kicks in 0.45 seconds before a collision — adds 0.6 G of force, essentially doubling the driver’s braking effort. (If the driver’s not braking at all, the system applies the brakes automatically.)

Working together, those three systems could prevent 7.7 percent of all rear-end crashes, Kusano and Gabler found. They also discovered that system combo could reduce the number of serious crash-related injuries by 50 percent.

“That surprised me,” said Kusano. “That is on a level with seat belts.”

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