Automatic emergency braking (AEB) on passenger vehicles is a good thing. It’s purpose is to reduce the chance of a rear-end collision or decrease the severity of the impact if it does occur. But does it function as intended when the vehicle in front of a car is a large truck?
A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) implies that it does not reliably do so:
When it comes to preventing typical front-to-rear crashes, automatic emergency braking is a proven winner. Extending its functionality to address less-common types of rear-end crashes involving turning, changing lanes or striking heavy trucks or motorcycles, for instance, would help maximize autobrake’s benefits, a new IIHS study indicates. . .
Autobrake systems that reliably detect large trucks could prevent underride crashes. Twelve percent of U.S. passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2017 were in crashes with large trucks, and 1 in 5 of these deaths occurred when a passenger vehicle struck the rear of a large truck.
If I am interpreting this correctly, this means that, currently, AEB on many vehicles do not reliably detect large trucks in order to prevent underride crashes. This is no surprise as there is almost 4 feet from the bottom of most trucks to the ground; the sensors are apparently not located in such a way as to be able to detect the truck body. No threat is recognized.
Therefore, it appears to me that we cannot rely on the current collision avoidance technology to prevent rear-end collisions of cars into trucks. If we want to more reliably prevent deadly underride and gruesome passenger compartment intrusion, why then would we not install effective comprehensive underride protection on all large trucks?
See what happens when collision does occur into the rear of a truck which is and is not equipped with an effective rear underride guard:
By the way, the same is, of course, true for the sides of large trucks where there is nothing but open space — nothing for the car’s sensors to detect. What will we do about that?