A few new vehicles now offer some form of automatic braking or warning to avoid rear-end collisions. The vehicles use either cameras or sensors to monitor the distance to the car ahead, and if the computer thinks the distance is becoming too short for safety the vehicle will either sound an alert or actually start braking. In theory, this is a wonderful invention.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has now tested several of these automatic braking systems, and Subaru came out on top, followed by Cadillac, Volvo, and Mercedes.
Here are excerpts from an article in AutoNews about the study:
In the tests, the Subaru Legacy and Outback detected a dummy car on the road and braked from 25 mph to a stop in time to avoid slamming into it. They were the only vehicles tested that came to a full stop, though five others — the Cadillac ATS and SRX, Volvo S60 and XC60, and Mercedes-Benz C class — slowed enough to win a “superior” rating from the IIHS.
Those seven models will get the biggest bragging rights under the Top Safety Pick+ rankings for 2014, marking the first time the IIHS has used any tests besides crash tests to pick its winners.
“You’re going to see more of this from us,” said David Zuby, chief research officer at the IIHS. “Crash prevention technology is out there, and it’s very promising, but it’s also very confusing. We’re going to do our best to untangle the confusion and encourage manufacturers to adopt what we know is working.”
The change in the IIHS’ closely watched Top Safety Pick program comes as automakers step up promotion of advanced safety features that can cost $1,000 or more. In the past few years, the insurance industry-funded group started to single out automatic braking for praise, saying that insurance claim data showed fewer crashes for vehicles with Volvo’s City Safety package.
For now, the IIHS hopes its new ratings will help customers understand what they’re getting for their money. Based on the marketing, “you’d think the systems all pretty much do the same thing,” Zuby said. “But we’re finding that’s not the case.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying automatic braking, too. The agency said in a statement it has been doing “intensive” research on the technology and will decide in the next several months how to evaluate or regulate individual packages; a mandate is one option.
NHTSA also applauded the new rating system, saying it “looks forward to seeing how vehicle manufacturers respond to these new rating criteria and the safety benefits it will yield consumers.”