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Why are some cars with auto braking stopping when they shouldn't?

If you're shopping for a new car after being involved in a crash, you likely want one with all the safety features widely available on newer models to help you feel more secure as you get back on the road.

One popular feature -- which will be standard in 2022 on most vehicles -- is automatic emergency braking (AEB). It can help prevent rear-end crashes because it will cause the vehicle to brake when it senses that the car in front has stopped -- even if the driver doesn't notice.

However, like just about all new technology, it doesn't always work perfectly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received hundreds of reports from drivers of 2017 and 2018 model Nissan Rogue SUVs. They have said that their vehicles stopped suddenly when there was no reason to.

The agency has also received hundreds of reports of the same problem in vehicles made by other manufacturers, including Honda, Toyota, Mercedes and Fiat Chrysler. There have been reports of crashes and injuries (although relatively few) caused by false activations of the system.

In the past four years, almost 180,000 vehicles have been recalled for problems with auto braking. It appears that the vehicles may be mistaking other things for vehicles.

In their notification to consumers who purchased the impacted Rogue SUVs that a software update to the AEB system is available, Nissan says that these false activations may occur "in unique road conditions, such as specific railroad crossings, bridges, and low hanging traffic lights."

Reports of these malfunctions can be scary, and safety experts want defective vehicles recalled. However, they caution that people shouldn't be so afraid of the possibility of a malfunction that they turn off the auto-braking system when they haven't had a problem. As a spokesperson for the Center for Auto Safety explains, "The technology can help and does save you and prevents crashes, but only if it's on and only if it's working."

It's important to learn how to use the safety technology with which your new vehicle is equipped. If you're having a problem with it, or even if you need some help learning to use it properly, take it to your dealer. If you're injured in a crash caused by another driver or by a malfunctioning vehicle, find out what your legal options are for seeking compensation.

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