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Mazda SUV With Automatic Braking Crashes in Japan Drive Test

Mazda CX-5
Mazda Motor Corp.'s CX-5 sport-utility vehicle (SUV) is displayed at its launch in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

A Mazda Motor Corp. sport-utility vehicle equipped with an automatic-braking system crashed in Japan on Nov. 10 during a dealership test drive, injuring the driver and front-seat passenger, according to the police.

The Mazda CX-5 was being driven by a prospective buyer on the dealership’s parking lot when it crashed through a urethane barrier set up to demonstrate the SUV’s automatic braking feature, according to the Saitama Prefectural Police, which is 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.

Mazda is investigating the case and will cooperate with police if asked to, Makoto Watanabe, a spokesman for the Hiroshima, Japan-based automaker, said by phone today. The company can’t comment on whether there have been previous cases where the auto-brake system for the CX-5 didn’t work, he said.

“For any safety function, it’s 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.”

Mazda, based in Hiroshima, Japan, fell 0.2 percent to 423 yen as of 10:25 a.m. in Tokyo trading. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 1.2 percent.

Automatic braking first appeared in premium brands and is part of a move toward automated driving systems that carmakers are developing to help reduce human error and accidents.

Car Communication

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker, said last month it will introduce systems in about two years enabling cars to communicate with each other to avoid collision.

“When it comes to automation technology for driving through tight curves and changing lanes, I really feel that Japan’s technology is the No. 1 in the world,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Nov. 9, after riding in cars from Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. during test drives of their automatic safety technologies.

Mazda’s system, called Smart City Brake Support, uses a laser sensor to detect obstacles in front of the car to avoid or mitigate collisions by automatically applying the brakes, according to its website. If the driver speeds up when an obstacle is detected, the system is designed to sound an alert while curbing engine output to stop unintended acceleration.

The automaker offered the technology as an optional safety feature for an additional price in the CX-5 when the car was first introduced in February 2012, and made it a standard setting after the model was refreshed in Japan last month, according to Mazda.

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