Brake aid is an active vehicle safety feature intended to help drivers come to a halt more quickly during an episode of emergency braking. Studies reveal that when making emergency stops, roughly half of all drivers do not press the brake quickly enough or hard enough to make full use of their vehicle’s braking power. Brake assist is intended to recognize the tell-tale indications of emergency braking and provide drivers with extra brake support.
Brake assist is called by other names such as Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Predictive Brake Assist (PBA). The different names are important because though all brake assist systems have the same purpose, some are designed differently.
When would brake assist be useful?
Brake assist is useful whenever drivers must brake hard to generate an emergency stop. Brake assist usually works in conjunction with anti-lock braking systems (ABS) to make flying as effective as possible while avoiding wheel lockage.
There are Lots of relatively common situations that prompt heavy braking:
- A fisherman loses her balance and veers sharply in front of your car or truck.
- A large animal runs out to the road, forcing you to make an emergency stop.
- Cresting a hill, you encounter an unexpected line-up of cars and you must brake hard to avoid rear-ending another driver.
How does brake assist work?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States, brake assist systems fall into two general categories: electronic and mechanical. The principal difference between the two is in the method used to differentiate panic braking from regular braking.
Electronic brake assist systems use an electronic control unit (ECU) that compares instances of braking to pre-set thresholds. If a driver pushes the brake down hard enough and fast enough to surpass this threshold, the ECU will determine that there’s an emergency and promotes braking power. A number of these systems are adaptable, so they will compile information about a driver’s particular braking style and tweak the thresholds to ensure the maximum precision in emergency-situation detection. Modern drive-by-wire vehicles (i.e., vehicles with an ECU) are eligible to have electronic brake assist installed.Older vehicles that do not have an ECU may have a mechanical brake assist system put in.
Mechanical systems also use pre-set thresholds, but these are set automatically. This means that they are not flexible to individual drivers.
These systems include a locking mechanism that activates when the valve stroke — that is directly related to how far the brake pedal is pushed — moves a critical point. After this threshold is passed, the locking mechanism changes the origin of braking power from the brake piston valve to the brake booster, which provides the braking assistance.
How effective is brake assist?
The anticipated benefits of brake assist are many, particularly given the sorts of situations that brake assist is intended to address. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the United States has determined that the kinds of crashes relevant to brake assist are those where the driver saw a hazard, braked, but didn’t stop in time. Given this, the IIHS quotes that brake assist is pertinent to 417,000 crashes annually in the United States, including 3,080 fatal crashes.
Other studies also support brake assist’s effectiveness for preventing and reducing the severity of certain types of vehicle crashes. For instance, NHTSA found a reduced stopped distance of up to ten feet when brake help engaged during an emergency stop. In addition, researchers from France estimate that brake assist would reduce injuries in 11% of all crashes, and reduce the total number of road fatalities by between 6.5% and 9%.
Does brake help have any limitations?
Yes. As with other vehicle safety technologies, getting the maximum from brake assist requires that drivers understand its purpose and limitations. Both electronic and mechanical brake assist systems trigger solely on the basis of a driver’s braking controls. If the signs of panic braking are there, brake assist will engage to provide stopping support. However, inappropriate, unclear, or delayed braking actions could lead to brake assist either not tripping at all or failing to provide all available support.
The first thing to remember is that brake aid has no method of seeing obstacles ahead: it can’t scan for potential dangers and does not warn drivers of any threat. Therefore, drivers must continue to be vigilant by paying careful attention to the street and avoid behavior that could make identifying and responding to obstacles more difficult, like speeding, impaired driving, fatigued driving, and distracted driving.
Also, drivers must be aware that the pre-set thresholds in both electronic and mechanical brake-assist systems by which they recognize panic braking are set deliberately high. This is to ensure that brake assist doesn’t engage when it is not needed. However, many drivers are not used to applying the brakes hard enough and fast enough to exceed these thresholds and activate brake assist. To get the most out of brake assist, drivers must use the brakes forcefully and decisively whenever they realize an emergency stop is required.
How common is brake help in today’s vehicles?
Brake aid was first introduced in high-end European vehicles in 1996. Since then, brake assist has become remarkably common in Europe and Australia where it’s available as either standard or optional on the vast majority of new vehicles. In North America, brake assist was slower to reach the economy vehicle market. However, is now more commonly available within a security package, and a few manufacturers offer brake assist as a standard feature.