Volkswagens Needlessly Brake on Their Own Due to Defects in the Front Assist Technology

Key Points

  • VW's front assist technology is detecting objects that aren't there and applying the brakes at random times.
  • The system also turns off in inclement weather which disables adaptive cruise control.
  • Owners sued VW in 2020 after being told to turn the feature off if they didn't like how it worked.
Red warning light of VW's collision avoidance technology
Posted on
Author
Scott McCracken

Volkswagen's Front Assist technology wants to cut down on front-end collisions. By using a series of sensors and software, the car monitors the road in front of you and takes action if it suspects an imminent collision by applying the brakes.

That's pretty great. Except...

Owners say it will also apply the brakes when there is no imminent collision. Sometimes it will detect something that's not there and stop the car in the middle of the road.

So while it might reduce the chance of you hitting something in front of you, it increases your chance of getting hit from behind.

A Problem For Years

Front Assist was first offered in certain trim levels of 2015 models. It's a premium feature that can be found as part of VW's driver assistance package.

The Front Assist feature was an available option beginning with 2015 premium Touareg SUV models and was expanded to the 2016 VW Jetta, Beetle, CC, e-Golf, Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R and Golf SportWagen, depending on the model and trim line.

Common owner complaints

  • A front assist warning comes on at low speeds in slow moving traffic
  • Front assist is suddenly unavailable, even with a clean sensor and sunny days
  • The system turns off in inclement weather, disabling adaptive cruise control
  • Random braking can make driving a miserable experience.
  • Insurance won't cover accidents caused by a technological error

Any problems with Front Assist are difficult to replicate at a dealership, and can lead to many awkward "i promise this really happens conversations with service representatives. Usually the only solution is to recalibrate or replace the sensors, at a high cost to owners.

Could it be blocked or dirty sensors?

The front assist and adaptive cruise control sensors are usually located behind the VW emblem in the grille. In some cars that is very low to the ground.

Something as simple as dirt or a buildup of ice can disable the sensor or, even worse, create false positives. At times something as simple as road spray or a snow storm can also create issues.

But that's not always the case.

Front Assist Lawsuit

In August 2020 VW was sued over their response to customer complaints about the erratic braking and sudden activation of the Front Assist technology.

The plaintiffs say the techology has software errors that cause the sudden braking and provide no warning before the braking happens. And Volkswagen has allagedly concealed the problems.

If an owner complains about Front Assist, they're told to either document the problems as they happen or disable the feature entirely. Which, the plaintiff argues, lowers the resale value of the car.

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Volkswagen generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 2nd Generation Beetle

    Years
    2012–2020
    Reliability
    25th out of 46
    PainRank
    3.31
    Complaints
    42
    Continue
  2. 1st Generation CC

    Years
    2009–2017
    Reliability
    40th out of 46
    PainRank
    10.5
    Complaints
    177
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a CC
  3. 1st Generation e-Golf

    Years
    2015–2020
    Reliability
    10th out of 46
    PainRank
    0.33
    Complaints
    2
    Continue
  4. 7th Generation Golf

    Years
    2014–2019
    Reliability
    29th out of 46
    PainRank
    3.82
    Complaints
    42
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Golf
  5. 8th Generation Golf

    Years
    2020–2021
    Reliability
    29th out of 46
    PainRank
    N/A
    Complaints
    0
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Golf
  6. 7th Generation Golf GTI

    Years
    2015–2019
    Reliability
    22nd out of 46
    PainRank
    2.94
    Complaints
    20
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Golf GTI
  7. 8th Generation Golf GTI

    Years
    2020–2021
    Reliability
    22nd out of 46
    PainRank
    N/A
    Complaints
    0
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Golf GTI
  8. 1st Generation Golf R

    Years
    2015–2019
    Reliability
    3rd out of 46
    PainRank
    0.09
    Complaints
    1
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Golf R
  9. 6th Generation Jetta

    Years
    2011–2018
    Reliability
    43rd out of 46
    PainRank
    17.82
    Complaints
    343
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Jetta
  10. 7th Generation Jetta

    Years
    2019–2021
    Reliability
    26th out of 46
    PainRank
    3.41
    Complaints
    39
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Jetta

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA