Automotive Warranty and Recall Blog | May 2017

April 25, 2017

Have you ever taken your eyes off the road for a microsecond and were forced to slam on the breaks once your eyes were back on the road? As most drivers know, traffic conditions can change in a flash. The Advanced Drivers Assistance System (ADAS) known as Automatic Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS) provides significant support to scenery-gazing drivers in rapidly changing traffic conditions.  There are two types of AEBS: Crash Imminent Braking (CIB) and Dynamic Braking Systems (DBS). The difference between the two systems is that CIBs will automatically slow/stop the vehicle, while DBS requires that some force be applied to the brakes and assists in stopping the vehicle if a potential collision is detected. In recent news, a new feature in AEBS, known as The Road Condition Observer, is currently in development and plans to be available to drivers within five years. The Road Condition Observer takes road conditions into account at the time of emergency braking applications, since certain weather conditions may require additional braking time to prevent a potential collision. 

These systems sound great, but since they are products of a newer technology, are they also at a higher risk for recall or defect?

Regulatory Developments

NHTSA believes that AEB systems are a useful technology for drivers which have the potential to significantly decrease collision rates on roads. NHTSA is taking this technology’s advancements very seriously while providing specific rulemakings for the safety of drivers and others on the road.

“In 2012, one-third of all police-reported crashes involved a rear-end collision with another vehicle as the first harmful event in the crash, and NHTSA believes that advanced crash avoidance and mitigation technologies like AEB systems could help in this area. NHTSAs extensive research on this technology and on relevant performance measures showed that a number of AEB systems currently available in the marketplace are capable of avoiding or reducing the severity of rear-end crashes in certain situations (www.safercar.gov).”

In October 2015, NHTSA granted a petition for rulemaking (from February 2015) to require AEB systems in heavy vehicles. This petition also indicates that NHTS has been (and will continue to) test and monitor this system in heavy vehicles.  

“….NHTSA grants the February 19, 2015 petition in accordance with 49 CFR part 552 and initiates a rulemaking proceeding with respect to forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems on vehicles with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds.”

“For several years, NHTSA has researched forward collision avoidance and mitigation technology on heavy vehicles, including forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems. The agency will continue to conduct research and to evaluate real-world performance of these systems through track testing and field operational testing.”

 In November 2015, NHTSA responded to a notice (from January 2015) that requested NHTSA update its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) plan to recommend vehicles with AEB systems that meet NCAP’s standards. This will be in effect starting with 2018 vehicle model years.

“The agency's decision to update the U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to include a recommendation to motor vehicle consumers on vehicle models that have automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems that can substantially enhance the driver's ability to avoid rear-end crashes. NCAP recommends crash avoidance technologies, in addition to providing crashworthiness, rollover, and overall star ratings. Today, 3 crash avoidance technologies—forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and rearview video systems—are recommended by the agency if they meet NHTSA's performance specifications. NHTSA is adding AEB as a recommended technology, which means that we now have tests for AEB. AEB refers to either crash imminent braking (CIB), dynamic brake support (DBS), or both on the same vehicle.”

Recently, NHTSA has denied a petition for rulemaking that was reported on January 13, 2017 which stated that AEB systems should be made available in all light vehicles. Although it is clear that NHTSA is taking action to ensure that all AEB systems are safe, effective, and a reliable ADAS, NHTSA is aware of the required software needed and the timeline it will take to ensure all safety measures are being taken.

“NHTSA is denying the petition because the Agency has already taken significant steps to incentivize the installation of these technologies in a way that allows for continued innovation and technological advancement.” 

 Because many modern vehicle safety technologies are software-controlled and still relatively new, they are evolving very quickly. Standard setting at this early stage of technological evolution must be undertaken with great care, given the risk of inadvertently stymieing innovation and stalling the development and introduction of successively better versions of these technologies.”

What do we know?

A common issue recently observed in our research are complaints involving unintended, partial and automatic braking in vehicles equipped with AEB systems. Our research shows that oftentimes the mechanics of the brake assembly itself work correctly, however there is a malfunction in the communication between the sensors that detect an object in a vehicle’s path and the brake. 

NHTSA complaints chart

There have been few investigations involving AEBS, and only one which led to a recall. Investigation PE14-010 explains that the AEB sensors may falsely detect objects in front of the vehicle which triggers the vehicle to reduce speed. PE14-010’s closing resume states: 

 “Incidents reported false forward sensing surveillance resulting in either light momentary decelerations or driver perception of braking events resulting from cruise control automatic disengagements around certain bridges. Certain active safety calibrations may report some objects such as overpasses as moving or objects in the adjacent lanes as in path resulting in the cruise control dropping out or momentary light deceleration events.”

Five U.S. AEB recalls spanning vehicle model years 2011-2017 have been reported. Most of the recalls affected vehicle model years 2014-2015, and only two recalls involved 2016 and 2017 model vehicles. A similar description to Investigation PE14-010 is listed in the Part 573 Safety Recall 15V-301 Report. The remedy for this recall was an AEB software update and, in the interim, vehicle owners were advised to turn off their AEB system to prevent any further incidents from possibly occurring. 

 In certain driving conditions, the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) may unexpectedly activate while operating the vehicle. In rare cases, the system may interpret certain roadside objects, such as metal fences or metal guardrails, as obstacles and apply emergency braking through the CMBS.”

Unintended braking due to metal material detected in roads is also an issue observed in our research, such as Recall 15V-728: “The Pre-Collision System may unexpectedly activate and apply the brakes when the radar detects a steel joint or plate in the roadway as an object.”

AEB sensor defects are not only happening in the U.S. A similar, likely related, recall was observed in Japan. Japan’s Recall 3566 explains that “certain vehicles equipped with CMBS (Collision Brake Mitigation System) may have faults in their millimeter wave radar-aided obstacle detection programs whereby millimeter wave information received can be, on rare occasions, misrecognized as a forward obstacle in the case where the distance from the car ahead increased while driving on a road where its shoulders and/or median strips are provided with guard fences.”

Additional Findings

In addition to the common issues related to malfunctioning software within AEB sensors, other historical data presents unique trends which can provide insights on current technology advancements of AEB Systems.

Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) are non-recall safety defects. Our research revealed four TSBs that were related to AEB systems. These TSBs affected (3) 2011, (3) 2012, (4) 2014, (1) 2015, (1) 2016 vehicle model years (as well as 1 unknown vehicle model year). In June 2016, a TSB (Manufacturer Communication Number SB-2024223/3) was released about an issue involving the location of the collision mitigation braking sensors (CMBS) on the grill of the vehicle. The TSB explained that the CMBS does not properly perform if it is mounted on a non-CMBS grill. This may add an additional concern to the effectiveness of automatic braking technologies by ensuring that the sensors are mounted to a compatible grill. 

Data from Early Warning Reports supplied by OEMs to NHTSA from 2012 and 2016 report 99 incidents that involved AEBs. Of these incidents, a total of 123 injuries (the exact year of two of these injuries is unknown) and one fatality were reported. The fatality reported was in a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 form Texas. Other than the automatic braking component, defective air bag and structure related components may have also contributed to the fatality reported. As shown below, AEB injuries have been continually increasing since 2012, with a record high in 2016 of 53 reported injuries. This increase may indicate the sense of urgency for manufacturers and suppliers to address the defects in AEB technology, and assess its risk to prevent further incidents from occurring. It will be interesting to monitor the 2017 AEB incidents reported to determine whether any safety or technological advancements had been made.

automative braking chart

Market Expansion and Suppliers

Automatic emergency braking is not only a common technology in the United States, it is also becoming readily available and technologically advancing internationally. Similar to the North American International Auto Show for U.S. Vehicle Manufacturers, the North American International Auto Show for European Vehicle Manufacturers highlighted many vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems, including AEB technology. Recent news in 2017:

In Germany, the Opel Insignia Sports Tourer came on the market beginning February 2017. This vehicle is equipped with automatic hazard braking and automatic emergency braking.

In Slovakia, SKODA will be launching the enhanced CITIGO by spring 2017 which will include automatic braking systems.

In Japan, an emerging trend is AEB systems accompanied by cameras in mini vehicles to increase the detection of pedestrians. Daihatsu Motor Company implemented this trend by changing their AEB systems with laser radar sensors to stereo cameras in 2016.

In China, KSS Automotive Active Safety System in China opened a new location for research and development for advanced driver assistance systems including adaptive cruise control and automatic braking technologies.   

The top suppliers of AEBS are mainly located overseas, with only one stationed in the United States. The tops suppliers include: Advics (Japan), Autoliv (Sweden), Bosch (Germany), Continental AG (Germany), and Delphi Automotive (USA).  In February 2017, another supplier in Japan, Furukawa Automotive Systems Inc. began increasing their production of monitoring radar sensors for AEB systems. These sensors are mainly used for Mazda’s newly launched vehicle, CX-5. 

Conclusion

AEBS have the potential to significantly assist drivers and prevent potential collisions on the roads, making roads a safer place. Since AEBS are still relatively new, there is limited available data, making it challenging to establish whether this technology is positively or negatively impacting the automotive world. In other words, the frequency of defect cannot be predicted since AEBS are young in their product life cycle. However, with the limited information that is available, some inferences can be made.

The current AEBS issue that must be addressed are the software related issues which relay information from the sensor to the brake. This has been a common theme found in the NHTSA regulation documents and investigations listed above. Due to this newly developed vehicle system, there is (and will continue to be) an increased regulatory focus by NHTSA to ensure that all safety measures are being considered, as well as the product’s level of efficiency.

In the years to come, there will be more data available which will provide a better indication of the impact of AEBS in the automotive industry. In the meantime, suppliers may be at an increased risk for being at fault for the common software issues in AEBS listed throughout the above documents. Similar to NHTSA, suppliers should be increasing their focus on AEBS systems and their components through system advancements and continual system testing.

AEBS are not the only ADAS that is becoming more readily available in the automotive industry.  We may be faced with a similar developmental progression as AEBS. Car manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers may be able to anticipate similar stages in the product life cycle of these other ADAS.

This leads to an additional issue: Which supplier should be held accountable: software supplier, sensor/radar supplier, or the integrator? Who exactly should be faced with this software issue in AEBS? 

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