New ratings for systems that help drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes were released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry, and overall, the news is good.
The proportion of vehicle models offered with emergency automatic braking capability has doubled since 2012 as automakers have made strides in adopting the most advanced safety systems, the institute said when it announced the results of the new tests on Thursday.
Vehicles were rated for front crash prevention depending on whether they offered autobrake and, if so, how effective it was in tests at 12 and 25 mph, the group said. Of the 24 cars and SUVs tested, eight models earned the highest rating of Superior; 13 were rated Advanced, and three received a Basic rating, the lowest of three categories.
“We know that this technology is helping drivers avoid crashes,” David Zuby, the institute’s executive vice president and chief research officer, said in a statement. “We are already seeing improvements from automakers since the initial launch of our ratings last September,” he added, noting that manufacturers like BMW and Lexus have added more braking capability to their systems and as a result received higher ratings in the recent tests.
Front crash prevention systems use sensors, like cameras, radar or lasers, to detect when a vehicle is getting too close to one in front of it, the group said. Most systems issue a warning and precharge the brakes to maximize the impact if the driver responds by braking; many systems brake the vehicle autonomously if the driver doesn’t respond; and in some systems, automatic braking is activated without a preliminary warning.
“The advantage of autobrake is that even in cases where a crash can’t be avoided entirely, the system will reduce speed,” Zuby said. “Reducing the speed reduces the amount of damage that occurs to both the striking and struck cars and reduces injuries to people in those cars.”
Most of the vehicles in the newest test group were from the 2014 model year, and included large family cars, large luxury cars as well Buick, Chevrolet, Dodge and Toyota models.
Four vehicles earned perfect scores when equipped with certain options. They are the BMW 5 series large luxury car, BMW X5 midsize luxury SUV, 2015 Hyundai Genesis large luxury car and Mercedes-Benz E-Class large luxury car.
Some models have multiple ratings because they are available with different versions of front crash prevention systems and their test performance varies.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering whether to require automatic braking on vehicles in the future, the institute said.
The institute said that front crash prevention systems have to be purchased as part of an optional package, but consumers will find that availability is growing. More than 20 percent of 2014 models offer a front crash prevention system with autobrake capabilities, twice as many as in 2012; and forward collision warning is an option on nearly 40 percent of 2014 models.
“Sorting through the various trade names and features can be confusing, even if you’re looking at models from the same manufacturer,” Zuby said, suggesting before buying, consumers should consult the institute’s ratings to find out if the specific model they are considering comes with a top-rated front crash prevention system.