Continental says the city emergency brake assist is set to become standard equipment in small cars, making it one of its major objectives.

The assist recognises critical situations early on and intervenes with optimal braking, providing an important driver assistance system in urban areas in particular, where three quarters of all registered accidents occur.

"Each year, the German police register approximately 200,000 such crashes with other vehicles in cities and towns," said a Continental statement. "Around one quarter of these are rear-end collisions - often with drivers not having braked at all.

"The number of unreported cases is somewhat higher, as the police do not generally keep a record of minor damage. These accidents may, however, result in injuries and more major damage to the vehicles, leading to high repair costs."

The anticipatory emergency brake assist for urban areas - Emergency Brake Assist City (EBA-City) - uses an optical sensor with infra-red beams to monitor the road ahead for a distance of up to around ten metres, with the electronics calculating the distance to the car in front.

If this distance decreases so rapidly that a rear-end collision seems likely, the system intervenes by alerting the braking system. If the driver does not immediately let up on the accelerator pedal and apply sufficient braking force, the emergency brake assist helps by reducing the braking system's response time or automatically initiating emergency braking if the driver does not brake at all.

At low speeds of up to 20kmh, rear-end collisions can be prevented in most situations. At higher speeds, automatic emergency braking dramatically reduces the impact, helping to protect passengers in the car in front as well.

"Unlike humans, the automatic emergency brake assist is always on the alert and cannot be distracted," said head of the vehicle technology division at the German Road Safety Council, Welf Stankowitz. "Up to 28% of rear-end collisions can be prevented or their consequences mitigated. 

"After seat belts, we consider the emergency brake assist the most important method of protecting people inside and outside the vehicle. In this way, we are coming even closer to achieving Vision Zero in urban traffic."

The first small cars to feature the emergency brake assistant from Continental are already available.

The German Insurance Association (GDV) also supports use of the technology.