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Mazda probe into auto brake crash

Japanese auto brake system demo crash echoes Top Gear smash of Mazda CX-5

14 Nov 2013

A POLICE investigation into a crash of a Mazda CX-5 in Japan during a dealership demonstration of the new automatic braking system is focusing on whether the driver adhered to company safety guidelines.

The system – dubbed Smart City Brake Support – is designed to minimise rear-end crashes in urban driving at speeds of between 4 and 30km/h.

In the Japanese incident in Fukaya last week, the CX-5 apparently hit a fence during a safety equipment demonstration, injuring a customer and dealership employee, with the latter suffering a broken arm.

Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson also crashed a CX-5 into the back of another vehicle while testing the braking system for a segment on a show filmed earlier this year and screened in Australia in the past week.

In that case, Clarkson turned suddenly into the back of the Volkswagen Tiguan, giving the system no chance to detect the obstacle and stop in time. The diesel CX-5’s intercooler was smashed in the impact, requiring it to be towed away for repairs.

In Japan this week, Mazda announced that all such demonstrations had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation by Japanese police and the introduction of any necessary counter measures.

The automatic braking system, which has just been introduced on the CX-5 range in Australia, uses a laser to detect the vehicle in front and initiate braking to prevent or minimise any impact.

Like all such systems introduced on a wide range of cars from other manufacturers including Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru, the system is not foolproof.

Mazda says a number of factors can stop the system from operating as expected.

“For this reason, Mazda instructs all dealerships throughout Japan to carry out safety feature demonstration drives only under a strict set of conditions which define elements such as the size, type and distance of the obstacle, surrounding environment, vehicle speed and driver’s actions,” it said in a media release.

Mazda said both it and the dealership were co-operating fully with the police in the investigation “to understand the causes of the accident as soon as possible so that countermeasures to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future can be implemented”.

Although Mazda said it had not received any reports of accidents on public roads due to a malfunction of the auto brake system, the Top Gear incident appeared to be filmed on a public road, or at least a public car-park.

In Australia, the brake system has already been introduced on the Mazda6, and this week was added to the CX-5 Akera flagship as standard equipment, and as an option as part of the safety pack on the mid-range CX-5 Maxx Sport.

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