How Automatic Braking Systems Work

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Author's Note: How Automatic Braking Systems Work

When I set out to write this article, I drew up a little plan for myself: Who to talk to, what to include and what the final version would look like. It was a terrible plan.

That's because these systems are far more sophisticated than I expected. Like Adam Kopstein at Volvo said, "Making the car stop is easy." That's what I figured. What I didn't count on was that next part of his quote: "The trick is making sure it only does it when it's supposed to." The variety of sensors, cameras, recognition profiles, warnings and brake applications for this one little part of a safety system made for a very complicated explanation.

So I had to revisit my plan. And by "revisit," I mean toss-out completely and let my conversations with the experts guide the story. There's so much more information that I wish I could have fit into this article! Like how Volvo tested its cameras in European taxis, and the resulting images nearly gave the researchers heart attacks. And how EyeSight will tell you if the car in front of you has pulled away from the red light while you continue to sit there playing Angry Birds and holding up traffic.

Related Articles


  • Edelstein, Stephen. "Cadillac's automatic braking system acts like a 'virtual bumper.'" Digital Trends. Sept. 18, 2012. (Jan. 28, 2013)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Crash avoidance technologies." July 2012. (Jan. 31, 2013)
  • Kopstein, Adam. Volvo safety and compliance manager. Personal interview conducted on Jan. 30, 2013.
  • O'Donnell, Jayne. "Automatic braking in cars helps cut down on crashes." USA Today. July 19, 2011. (Jan. 28, 2013)
  • Sullivan, David. Subaru EyeSight expert. Personal interview conducted on Jan. 29, 2013.
  • Subaru of America. "2013 Subaru Legacy Debuts New Powertrain, EyeSight Driver-Assist System and Revised Styling." Aug. 12, 2012. (Jan. 28, 2013)
  • Volvo Car Group. "Collision Warning with Auto Brake helps prevent rear-end collisions." Jan. 11, 2008. (Jan. 31, 2013)