Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is the first CV brand to fit all of its vans with autonomous emergency braking systems, now available as standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter models.
Using radar built into the front end of the van, the system, named Front Assist, recognises critical distances to the vehicle in front and helps to ensure safe stopping. In dangerous situations, it first warns the driver with audible and visual signals of any vehicle in front driving slowly or suddenly braking and of the associated risk of collision, while simultaneously preparing the van for emergency braking by applying the brake pads and alerting the brake assistant.
If the driver fails to react to the warning, a one-off short jolt of the brake indicates in the second stage the looming danger of a collision and the brake assistant’s responsiveness is further increased.
If the driver then hits the brakes, full braking power is immediately available. If the driver doesn’t brake strongly enough, Front Assist increases the braking pressure to the required level, so that the vehicle comes to a stop before reaching the obstacle.
The system also includes the City Emergency Braking function, which provides assistance at speeds below 18 mph. If a driver fails to see or react to an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the speed of any collision is reduced, or even prevents the vehicle from running into the obstacle.
According to Thatcham Research, the motor insurers’ automotive research centre and respected experts in safety, security and crash repair, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems are ‘probably the most significant development in vehicle safety since the seat belt’ and have the potential to save more than 1,000 lives and 120,000 casualties over the next 10 years.
Not only does autonomous emergency braking have the potential to reduce the number and severity of accidents, it has also been proven to cut third party injury insurance claims by 45%. For van drivers and fleet operators, this means lower costs as well as less downtime thanks to fewer crashes. In addition, vehicles fitted with autonomous braking systems have an average insurance premium reduction of 10% compared to those without.
Commenting on the development, VWCV’s Head of Marketing, Sarah Cox, said, “Producing safe, reliable vans has been at the heart of our brand for over 60 years. But technology is advancing at a pace and we’re continually seeing more and better ways to keep drivers safe on the road.”
Peter Shaw, Chief Executive at Thatcham Research, said, “Volkswagen is a trailblazer and should be applauded for being the first manufacturer to fit AEB as standard on all its vans in the UK. The truth is that we are seeing a year on year rise in deaths and serious injuries involving vans which this technology can help to avoid.”
Three quarters of collisions occur in ‘city environments’ (at under 25 mph) and a 2015 study by Euro NCAP and Australasian NCAP showed autonomous braking leads to a 38% reduction in real-world rear-end crashes.