It’s a feature meant to potentially prevent a car crash, but a new report says auto-braking systems in a number of newer vehicles could be giving some drivers more than they bargained for.
Some experts believe it’s potentially putting drivers at risk.
The car shopping site BestRide.com said 14 different vehicle brands are affected: Acura, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, RAM, Range Rover, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volvo.
According to the report, drivers in these vehicles can be immobilized during automated car washes unless certain auto-braking systems can be disabled.
Car wash operators report vehicles becoming disabled in mid-wash and, in some cases, even flying off the rails.
“One has actually come on a tow truck from the car wash facility,” said Mike Yu with Midtown Auto Service. “Most of the time, it’s just resetting something to the computer, and we can get it to move again.”
Yu believes he’s seen at least six examples of this in the last six months.
“Some of the customers are experiencing problems with their braking system after going to a car wash facility, mainly a tunnel system,” Yu said. “I’m wondering when they are going to address this to the general public.”
Chad Geer, manager at CARisma Wash in the Upper Kirby neighborhood, showed KHOU 11 News surveillance video of what he calls a “scary experience” for a pregnant woman and her two kids.
He said the family was in their SUV during an automatic car wash this past summer when their vehicle flew off the rails and into a concrete ball.
Geer is convinced an automatic braking issue is to blame.
“It’s happened three or four times, and we have video. So we have the proof,” Geer said. “Obviously there’s a problem. We have thousands of other cars we wash, and there are no problems.”
Geer said the pregnant woman was taken to the hospital but was okay after the ordeal.
“She could’ve ended up right on that road. Somebody could’ve hit her. Bad stuff could’ve happened,” he added.
The auto-braking systems reportedly have no effect if the car wash uses a conveyor belt system to move a car through the tunnel rather than chains and rollers in which a car is physically pushed through the tunnel.
It’s still unclear how often this may be happening.
KHOU 11 News reached out to three automakers.
A spokesman for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles released the following statement:
“FCA US LLC has not received any reports from customers experiencing issues traveling through car wash systems with their forward collision warning system-equipped vehicles. Customers do have the option to turn off the forward collision warning system by going to the “Safety & Driving Assistance” page of their Uconnect system. The safety and security of our customers is always our top priority and we currently offer several automated driver-assist features, such as our sensor-fusion forward collision warning systems. Many FCA US vehicles are equipped with forward collision warning systems that blend radar and camera technologies to identify potential impact scenarios. No mainstream automaker currently offers Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) in more segments (six) than FCA US.”
A spokesman for Toyota released the following statement:
“We are unable to comment on this specific incident or the cause."