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What emergency brake assist is, and how it can help you avoid an accident

By Richard Edwards (Auto Media Group) | Reviewed March 2017


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Emergency brake assist is a technology that helps you stop as quickly as possible in the event of an accident. It simply detects when you hit the brakes hard and applies the brakes with as much force as possible.

The development of emergency brake assist stemmed from a study by Mercedes-Benz in the early 1990s where it was found 90% of drivers fail to hit the brake pedal with enough force in the event of an emergency. Even a small delay in applying the brakes fully can make a significant difference in how far a car will travel before stopping. Even short distances saved can prevent a collision.

Emergency brake assist uses sensors to monitor how hard and fast the brake pedal is applied. If it detects you are making an emergency stop, but the brake is not fully applied, it will intervene and apply maximum braking force. Some systems will also detect when you lift your foot from the accelerator rapidly and lightly pre-apply the brakes in anticipation.

Before Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) became available, the recommendation in emergency situations was to moderate how hard you braked to avoid wheels locking up and the car going into a skid. ABS works best when you do hit the pedal as hard as possible and let it do the work.

As emergency brake assist works in conjunction with other systems, there is little evidence on exactly how effective it is, but a European study found 58% of vehicle incidents involved drivers not braking soon enough or hard enough.

Some emergency brake assist systems will activate the vehicle’s hazard lights, or flash the brake lights to warn those behind that the car is stopping in a hurry. Some systems can also take information from radar sensors and electricity, predict a potential incident, and pre-load the brakes for maximum power when you do finally hit them.

Emergency brake assist is different to autonomous emergency braking, as it still requires the driver to brake.

Mercedes-Benz was the first brand to fit emergency brake assist, to an S-Class, in 1996. It was standard across the brand’s range by 1998. It is now standard on virtually every new car sold in New Zealand.

Richard Edwards (Auto Media Group)

Richard Edwards (Auto Media Group)Editor

I've been writing about the automotive industry for 16 years, and lead a range of publications through Auto Media Group. I play with my 1984 Toyota MR2 and travel in my down time. 

(Opinions are my own and not those of Trade Me.)

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