In today’s world, more and more technology is entering the standard car. Previously, drivers had to rely on their own skills, choice of strong car tyre and car brakes to stop the vehicle on time. Today, we are seeing more and more cars come with automatic braking.

During an emergency, quicker braking can help avoid collisions and damage entirely. Automatic braking is already appreciated for its ability to help, but how exactly does it work? This is something that will become more important, as such systems could become commonplace by 2020.

How automatic braking works

Different car manufacturers have different methods for automatic braking, as it is requires other systems to work. This means that no two systems operate exactly the same way, yet the overall basics are still very similar.

Essentially, the vehicle will have some form of sensor. This will be designed to record the distance between the car and objects in front - typically, other vehicles. The car will then actively monitor this, as well as being connected to the brakes.

After this, there are two different ways the automatic system may act:

  • Collision avoidance. These systems seek to directly avoid collisions. As a result, these systems will automatically activate the brakes, without giving the driver a warning or time to choose.

  • Collision mitigation. In this alternative, the brakes are only applied after the distance between the two objects passes a predetermined threshold. Before this, the car will use various means to notify the driver, allowing him or her to make a choice while there is still time.


Automatic braking allows vehicles to apply the brakes without human input.

While it might sound similar, Automatic Braking Systems and ABS are two different things. ABS refers to Anti-lock Braking System. Often, automatic braking will utilise ABS for effective braking.

Why is it important?

When you’re travelling at a high speed, it takes longer to brake to a complete halt. As a result, the need for excellent tyre grip is vital, but so too is the result for fast responses. If you, as a driver, take too many seconds to react, this delays the time required to bring your car to a complete stop.

Automatic braking, then, serves as a possible safety net, in the case of the driver failing to notice a collision, a surprise object that could not be accounted for or any other possible scenario.


Automatic braking is useful for when cars are too close in proximity to each other

However, it should also be noted that automatic braking is not a perfect system and car owners should not rely on it to do something for them. The effectiveness of these systems is based on two key factors. First of all, there is the vehicle’s factors, such as the braking conditions and your adherence to the legal tyre tread depth.

Secondly, the system relies on the sensors ability to identify objects and distances. Considering there are different ways of doing this, the effectiveness of such a system can vary from car to car.

Braking and car tyres

Of course, all breaks - whether operated by human or automatic input - still need to work with your car tyres. As such, tyres that are in a good condition will be able to break better. The same can also be said about the road conditions. Aquaplaning and other incidents can all still reduce the effectiveness of braking, so good tyres are a must.

There are also seasonable changes that need to be taken into account. Strong grip is essential in the winter so, due to its tough conditions, something with specialised snow grip will go a great way to ensuring strong braking.


When driving in the snow, even with automatic braking, you need good tyres and brakes.

Put it this way: automatic systems work with your brake discs and callipers. They are not able to work around your choice of tyres. As such, it is always worth ensuring you are above the minimum tyre tread depth, as even this does not offer great amounts of grip. In the UK, the tyre tread legal limit is 1.6 mm or more but, when it comes to winter tyres, you should consider changing these tyres earlier to ensure better braking.

The rise of automatic braking

If you’re wondering what vehicles have automatic braking, you may be very pleasantly surprised. In early 2016, 20 major car manufacturer’s worked with the US government to form an agreement. This agreement states that all vehicles with a total weight beneath 8,500 pounds, will come equipped with automatic brakes by the 1st of September, 2020.

As for the manufacturer’s behind this push, these were some of the biggest, leading names in the commercial automotive sector:

Audi BMW FCA US LLC Ford General Motors
Honda Hyundai Jaguar Land Rover Kia Maserati
Mazda Mercedes-Benz Mitsubishi Motors Nissan Porsche
Subaru Tesla Motors Toyota Volkswagen Volvo Car USA

This weight covers all average cars, and even pick-up trucks, meaning that we could start to see these systems in a broader range of brake fitting sizes very soon. As for other vehicles, a stipulation to the agreement ensured that larger rides - with weights between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds - will not need these brakes until the 1st of September, 2025.

There’s a good chance, then, that your car has an automatic braking system included and, if not, one of the next cars you own will more than likely have this addition. Just remember that these systems are only designed to help in emergency situations.

As a driver, you should always be vigilant on the road while, as a car owner, you should be sure to maintain your front and rear brakes, as well as having summer tyres and winter tyres with strong grip.