Autonomous Emergency Braking systems are said to reduce low-speed crashes by up to 40 per cent – and yet only 52 per cent of the UK’s top-selling vehicles feature it as standard.
Just the Mercedes C-Class – the UK’s tenth best-selling car between January and June 2016 – features the automatic braking system across the entire range, putting it in first place, according to Thatcham Research.
The next best performer in terms of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) availability is the VW Golf, which offers it as standard equipment across most of the range but is ‘not available’ in some cases. It was the fourth biggest-seller over the same period.
Third place goes to the Nissan Qashqai crossover, which features the safety system as standard across 71 per cent of the range and the option to add it as an optional extra on all remaining models.
At the other end of the spectrum was the Vauxhall Corsa, which was the second biggest seller but has absolutely no option of Autonomous Emergency Braking, while the Fiesta only offers it as an optional extra on just half of the model range at a cost of £200.
Autonomous Emergency Braking alerts the driver if a hazard is detected (be that a cyslist, pedestrian or another car) before automatically applying the brakes if the driver fails to respond in time.
Thatcham Research chief executive Peter Shaw said manufacurers can do better, especially as superminis are favoured by younger drivers who are less experienced and more likely to be involved in a road accident.
“With combined sales of the Fiesta and Corsa totalling over 100,000 in the first 6 months of this year alone, there’s a great opportunity to provide standard fit crash prevention for the masses,” he said.
The Mokka was another car in the top ten without the option of AEB, but Vauxhall redeemed itself somewhat with the Astra, which features it as standard on 34 per cent of the model range and available as part of its optional ‘Driving Assistance’ pack priced from £565 to £795.
“Honda has shown that standard fit AEB safety at supermini price level is achievable, with the new Jazz having it across the entire range,” he added.
Safety specialist Euro NCAP added testing of autonomous systems to its test in 2016, making it harder for vehicles without them to secure a five-star rating. Some experts have hailed it as the biggest safety feature since the seatbelt and airbags.
There are various clever safety systems that can help the driver, including Lane Keep Assist that keeps a car within white lines on a road, Adaptive Cruise control that maintains a speed and distance behind the car in front and driver monitor systems that warn the driver if they are drowsy and therefore unfit to drive.
Tesla recently came under fire for its Autopilot system, which played a role in the death of a driver who had been using the self-driving feature before driving into a truck. His hands were off the steering wheel at the time.