Japan - Mazda SUV crashes during test drive when auto-brake feature fails

[Source:  Bloomberg]

A Mazda Motor Corp. CX-5 sport utility vehicle equipped with an automatic braking system crashed while on a test drive in Japan on Sunday, the accident resulting in an injury to both the driver and front-seat passenger, according to the Saitama Prefectural Police. The CX-5 SUV was being test driven by a prospective customer on a dealership’s parking lot when it crashed through the urethane barrier set up to demonstrate specifically the SUV’s automatic braking technology, this according to information from the police who are still investigating the accident.

The customer suffered a neck injury while the dealership employee sitting in the front passenger seat fractured his arm, the police said. Makoto Watanabe, spokesman for Mazda said that the Hiroshima-based automaker is investigating the case, but he couldn’t confirm whether the model being tested at the dealership had the brake feature. “For any safety function, it is impossible to be 100 percent free of accidents,” said Hiroshi Ataka, a Tokyo-based auto parts analyst at IHS Automotive. “These technical functions aren’t always the easiest to understand.” Automatic braking systems first appeared in premium car brands and are now part of a broader move by carmakers to help reduce human error and accidents.

Mazda’s automatic braking system – which they call the Smart City Brake Support – uses a laser sensor to detect obstacles in front of the car to avoid or mitigate the impact of collisions by automatically applying the brakes, this according to information from its website. If the driver accelerates when an obstacle is detected, the system is designed to sound an alert while curbing engine output to stop unintended acceleration. When the CX-5 SUV was introduced in February 2012, Mazda offered the auto-braking technology as an optional safety feature for an additional price, before making it a standard setting for the model after it was refreshed in Japan last month. “We will fully cooperate with the police investigation upon request,” said Watanabe, the Mazda spokesman.

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