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What can I do about the faulty AEB on my 2018 Volkswagen Polo?

Asked by Orla

I bought a 2018 Volkswagen Polo that had around 5000km on it. After a week of driving the car I noticed it was automatically braking itself. I informed the dealer and was told it may be due to bushes setting the AEB sensor off. I bought the car in May 2020 and this has happened a total of six times (small roads and motorways). I have sent photos to prove there is nothing around me; cars, animals etc that could set this system off. All four tires are locking and skidding on the road when it happens.

Luckily, each time there were no other cars around as it would have caused a serious accident. I have since returned the car to the dealers (over a month ago) and they have confirmed there is a fault showing on the system but are unable to locate it. They have said they have rebooted the system and hopefully this will work, however I refuse to take the car back. I have also spoken with a lady who also bought a 2018 Volkswagen Polo from the same dealership and had the same problem and returned the car. Volkswagen know there is a fault with a batch of 2018 cars’ sensors but are trying to hide this. Should I seek legal advice? Has anyone else had a problem like this?

Answered by CarsGuide

14 Oct 2020 David Morley

You’re on the right track here and it does appear that your car suddenly thinks it’s about to crash and triggers the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system to avoid the phantom prang. And it does that by automatically slamming on the brakes. Again, you’re right when you suggest that if other cars had been around at the time, the car’s attempts to avoid a crash may, indeed, have caused one.

I have a couple of questions for you: Does this problem occur when you’re driving with the active cruise-control engaged? And, does it happen when driving on a downhill section of road that then begins to level out? If the answers bare yes, then you’re not alone, because those are the precise circumstances reported by more than a dozen 2018 Polo owners in the US. The theory is that the levelling terrain is detected by the car’s sensors, causing it to confuse the undulating road with a potential collision threat. Calibration and set-up is critical in these sophisticated modern AEB systems, and something is not right with your car. I doubt that rebooting the system (as the dealer has suggested) will make much difference if the sensors are angled or calibrated incorrectly.

Honda has experienced similar problems with its 2014 and 2015 CR-V model which also had the potential to confuse inanimate roadside objects (like wheelie-bins) with potential crash obstacles, and produced a similar response from the car. Honda has actually recalled those CR-Vs in Australia to deal with this, but Volkswagen Australia does not appear to have followed suit, telling me that it hasn’t seen any cases of this yet (at head office level).

Honestly, I don’t blame you for refusing to take the car back. I wouldn’t want to be driving around in a car that could suddenly, and without any warning or legitimate reason, apply its own brakes as if there was an emergency. I’d be short-cutting the dealer and going straight to VW Australia’s customer service division and spelling it out.

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