(Updated on April 22, 2020)
Brake assist is an innovative piece of braking technology which exists in most modern vehicles that have an anti-lock braking system.
If there is an emergency on the road which forces the driver to step on the brake pedal quickly to stop, the brake assist feature will automatically boost the amount of braking pressure applied to the braking system. This assists the driver in slowing down the vehicle faster.
Since drivers tend to panic in an emergency, they don’t always step on the brake pedal hard enough to slow down. Brake assist can detect when this happens based on the force and speed in which the driver steps on the brake pedal.
If the pedal is pressed fast and hard but without enough pressure, then the brake assist feature will kick in and apply more pressure to accommodate for it.
Obviously, the main point of having brake assist is to reduce the chances of a collision on the road. The computer technology which exists in cars today is a big reason why brake assist is even possible.
This technology is sometimes called predictive brake assist or emergency brake assist too. What it’s called depends on what type of braking system it is used for. But it still serves the same purpose in every braking system.
Brake assist and the anti-lock braking system in your vehicle work together to make braking even more effective. Not only does this combination give you emergency braking assistance, but it also prevents your wheels from locking out in an emergency too. This comes in handy during several possible emergency scenarios.
For instance, let’s say you’re driving on a road and then a deer suddenly runs out from nowhere into your path. Your first instinct will be to slam on the brake pedal with your foot.
However, your nervousness may prevent you from pressing the pedal down all the way. In this case, brake assist would detect this and supplement the additional pressure that you are not placing on the pedal.
How Brake Assist Works
There are two types of brake assist systems. The classic type is the mechanical brake assist and the newer type is the electronic brake assist.
The thing that separates the two brake assist systems is how they detect emergency braking when you step on the brake pedal.
Mechanical Brake Assist
The earliest version of the brake assist system was mechanical instead of electronic. This means there are no electronic sensors to detect the force and speed of the pressure placed on the brake pedal.
Instead, the mechanical brake assist has mechanical thresholds set in place. When a driver steps on the brake pedal, it must pass a certain point before the brake assist activates.
Once this happens, there is a locking mechanism which draws brake power from the brake booster instead of the brake piston valve. If you own a vehicle made after 2004, then it probably doesn’t have a mechanical brake assist in it.
Electronic Brake Assist
An electronic control unit is used in the electronic brake assist system. If the driver presses the brake pedal at a certain speed and force, the electronic control unit figures there is an emergency taking place.
As a result, the unit increases the braking power to slow the vehicle down further. Another neat thing about this brake assist system is that it can remember and adapt to the braking habits of the driver.
This may tweak the preprogrammed thresholds of the system to accommodate the normal force and speed of the driver’s foot pressure. That way, it does a better job of activating the brake assist when it is needed in an emergency.