Brake assist has proven so effective in reducing accidents that the European Commission (EC) plans to make the technology mandatory on all new vehicles sold in Europe. The EC has estimated the technology could save 1,100 pedestrian lives each year if all cars in Europe were equipped with this feature [source: eSafety Support]. Like stability control and anti-lock brakes, brake assist appears to be one of those technologies that was once reserved for higher-end cars, yet will eventually become a standard feature on all vehicles.
How much safer might U.S. roads be if brake assist technology became mandatory? According to the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 400,000 crashes occur every year in which the driver reacted -- that is, he or she tried to stop or maneuver out of the way. These crashes result in about 3,000 deaths each year [source: United States Institute of Insurance Highway Safety]. There's no precise way to tell how many of those crashes could have been avoided if the driver stopped sooner, but it appears that brake assist can reduce accidents when it works in tandem with other cutting-edge safety technologies.
There's some evidence out there to support this as well: The IIHS "Future Vehicles" report studied five relatively new car safety features, including brake assist, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and adaptive headlights. If all cars were equipped with all five of these features, they could potentially prevent 3.4 million crashes a year - - including 20,777 deaths -- according to the Institute's study [source: JDPower.com].
You don't have to be an automotive visionary to realize that with a little fine-tuning or perhaps some more processing power, these technologies collectively could eventually lead to cars that drive themselves. That could cut down drastically on collisions. That sounds great, but are people ready to surrender control of their vehicle to a computer in exchange for greater safety? In many cultures, cars and trucks are still associated with the freedom of personal mobility and a sense of personal control. What is fairly certain, though, is that technologies like brake assist, made possible by quick-thinking electronics, will continue to make driving a much safer proposition.
For more information on brake assist and other vehicle safety features, please see the links on the next page.