Anti-Collision Systems Promise Disruption for Express Car Washes

Red Car In Wash Tunnel

Automatic Emergency Braking systems (AEB), also known as precollision, anti-collision, or collision-mitigation systems, are a high tech, optional feature found today in select vehicle lines. But not for long. Under a recent auto industry agreement within the next six years virtually all passenger vehicles sold in the US will ship with standard forward AEB features—a move that heralds disruption for express car washes relying on traditional chain and roller conveyor systems.

The 2016 Agreement

Designed to save lives by assisting drivers on the road AEB systems use cameras, lasers, and/or radar to scan ahead of the car and react to specific threats. If the system detects an oncoming impact with an obstacle like an oncoming wall, stopped vehicle, or pedestrian it alerts the driver with a signal and, if the driver fails to react, automatically applies the brakes to stop the vehicle and avoid a forward collision.

The technology is impressive and promising—so much so that according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), vehicles equipped with AEB features see incidents of rear-end collisions reduced by 40% vs. standard vehicles, with bodily injury claims cut by 30%.

Spurred by this success over twenty United States automakers including Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Kia, and Tesla Motors reached an ‘unprecedented’ agreement with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in March of 2016. Per this agreement the overwhelming majority (99%) of all car and light truck models entering the market will include AEB as a standard feature by 2022.

The Problem for Car Wash Owners

This move, while beneficial for saving lives on the road, raises serious concern for car wash owners and operators, specifically those who rely on traditional chain and roller conveyor systems which roll customer vehicles through the wash bay. As many operators are discovering, AEB and other modern vehicle safety measures are not always designed with car wash patronage or safety in mind.

To a standard precollision system there is no difference between a solid concrete wall and a soft mitter curtain. Both are large forward obstacles which, if the vehicle is in motion, must be avoided. Both vehicle owners and car wash operators have reported instances of vehicles automatically engaging the braking system inside the car wash tunnel, at best holding up traffic and at worst causing the vehicle to jump rollers and impact the vehicle behind.

The challenge for operators is further multiplied by the diversity of systems, interfaces, and technology entering in the market as individual models (and even individual years) react differently to the car wash environment. Certain systems, like Honda’s Collision Mitigation Brake System, disengage automatically when the vehicle is moving under 10 mph, presenting no difficulty for car wash customers. Others, like the Subaru EyeSight Pre-Collision Braking System, explicitly warn drivers to manually deactivate the system before entering a car wash by selecting or holding an overhead button, or (depending on the specific interface) with a more complicated spin through the vehicle’s onboard control system.

Some of the worst offenders are recent Toyota and Lexus models, due to the inclusion of an anti-collision safety feature that remains active even when the vehicle is fully turned off, and a large slate of new vehicles raging from Audi to Volkswagen which feature a similar Electric Parking Brake system. Designed to prevent roll-away accidents, such systems are sometimes configured to engage automatically in specific conditions, causing confusion as drivers scramble to figure out why their vehicles won’t move after they attempt to load.

A Compelling Solution

For as long as there have been car washes there have been vehicles requiring special attention to utilize them. However, this rapidly expanding technology and the complexity associated with it constitutes a different type of challenge altogether. What happens when a plurality of customer vehicles are simply unable to use the wash bay? Or when a majority of patrons decide the wash isn’t worth the time it takes to change the necessary settings buried in their vehicle control system?

Wash operators need a new solution. And, fortunately, one is already available in the form of the dual belt car wash conveyor.

Transporter Dual Belt Conveyor

The Tommy Transporter Dual Belt Conveyor is a proven alternative to chain and roller conveyor systems, performing admirably under extreme high-volume situations. Loading is significantly easier for customers and, once in position, the vehicle does not roll. Precollision or automatic braking systems like those described above have absolutely no impact on the function of the car wash as the vehicle is carried through the system, not pushed along by a roller. Even if the brakes do engage the vehicle’s motion is not impeded, with no potential for damage or delay.

The Tommy Transporter is currently available for both new construction and retrofitting. In the latter case, the existing conveyor is removed and modifications are made to the bay floor before the new belt conveyor is installed—a 1-4 week processes completed with most wash equipment left in-place.

Vehicle technology continues to evolve and as a result car wash technology must evolve as well. Besides improved employee safety, faster loading times, quieter operation, and the accommodation of automatic braking systems, dual belt conveyors are also widely appreciated by consumers who see them as a safer option for their vehicles—the true future of automatic car washing.

For more information on AEB systems, please use the links below. To learn more about the Tommy Transporter Dual Belt Conveyor, use this link or contact a Tommy Car Wash Systems representative directly at or (616) 494-0411.

Tommy Car Wash Systems.

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One thought on “Anti-Collision Systems Promise Disruption for Express Car Washes

  • November 22, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    This article should be read by every sales associate hired! What a great “sales” tool promoting leading edge safety through design excellence! Good post.


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