Over 800 motorists have filed a complaint after their new or late-model Nissan slammed on its brakes while traveling at speed for no apparent reason. Investigators are looking into the defect, which is being blamed for 14 accidents and five injuries in the United States alone. Digital Trends was one of the first to discover the problem of faulty braking systems over a year ago.
The system allegedly at fault is the automatic emergency braking technology installed in over 553,000 examples of Nissan’s Rogue manufactured during the 2017 and the 2018 model years, according to industry trade journal Automotive News. That’s a significant number of vehicles; the Rogue and the smaller Rogue Sport (which are puzzlingly lumped into one sales figure) are among America’s best-selling cars.
As its name implies, the automatic emergency braking system is designed to bring the car to a stop if it detects a collision with another object — whether it’s a car, a pedestrian, a dumpster, a fox, or anything in the roadway — is unavoidable. The system can’t prevent every collision, and the driver remains responsible for not hitting things, but it usually at least mitigates the speed of the impact. If it works; we reported earlier that an issue with the radar disabled AEB in a 2018 Sentra. In this case, the technology appears to be seeing ghosts.
“At one time on the highway, it almost caused an accident due to sudden and abrupt, unneeded braking, slowing the car unexpectedly, nearly causing cars behind me to run into me. This vehicle behavior has occurred multiple times,” wrote a motorist in a complaint addressed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on March 5.
All of the related complaints filed against Nissan claim the Rogue slams on its brakes to avoid an obstacle that isn’t there. The reason behind this odd, annoying, and potentially dangerous tendency to stop while moving remains to be found. In our experience, automatic emergency braking systems sometimes get caught off-guard by roadside bushes or mile markers, but these instances are rare. Some of the Nissan owners added bridges, railroad tracks, and parking garages can trick the automatic emergency braking system into thinking it’s about to hit something.
Nissan takes safety seriously, and it’s committed to improving the performance of its automatic emergency braking technology. It instructed its dealers to reflash the ECUs that control the technology, but it hasn’t issued a safety recall so getting a Rogue fixed isn’t mandatory.
While Nissan’s ghost brakes are making headlines, the Japanese firm isn’t the only carmaker that has experienced issues with automatic emergency braking. AAA recently released a study that concluded collision avoidance systems rarely work as well as they’re supported to, especially at night. Sean Kane, the founder of Safety Research & Strategies said the issue comes from the need to pack expensive, advanced technology while preventing the cost of a car from ballooning.
“Nissan is not alone. We see a fair number of complaints across a variety of manufacturers. I see these problems creeping up. They’ll get better over time, and the technology will improve. But, for now, it’s a question of, ‘how do you put these technologies in low-cost cars?’ and it’s a race to the bottom,” he explained in a statement sent to Automotive News.
Time is running out for automakers to figure out a solution. Starting in September 2022, every car sold new in the United States will need to come standard with automatic emergency braking, regardless of whether it’s a bargain-basement econobox, a rugged off-roader, or a luxury car with a six-digit price tag.