2012 Volvo XC60

The Highway Loss Data Institute released a new study today that examines Volvo’s City Safety system, which the Institute found helps prevent crashes at low speeds.

The system, which Volvo’s website explains using a video game-like demonstration, automatically stops the vehicle if a car suddenly stops in front of it.

"This is our first real-world look at an advanced crash avoidance technology, and the findings are encouraging," says Adrian Lund, president of HLDI, in a statement. "City Safety is helping XC60 drivers avoid the kinds of front-to-rear, low-speed crashes that frequently happen on congested roads."

The HDLI says that Volvo’s City Safety system works at speeds between 2 and 19 mph and “uses an infrared laser sensor built into the windshield” to scan the area in front of the vehicle. If it senses a car within 18 feet of the front of the vehicle, it will automatically apply the brakes to try and avoid hitting the car in front of you. “If the speed difference between vehicles is less than 9 mph, City Safety helps drivers avoid some crashes altogether,” the HDLI explains. “If the difference is between 9 and 19 mph, the feature may not prevent the crash but will reduce the consequences.”

The HLDI evaluated insurance claims and found that Volvo’s City Safety system prevents about 25 percent of low-speed, rear-end crashes. Specifically, the study discovered that Volvo XC60 SUVs with the City Safety system are significantly less likely to be in these types of low-speed accidents than competitor vehicles without a similar system. “Claims under property damage liability coverage — the insurance that pays for damage to vehicles that an at-fault driver hits — were filed 27 percent less often for the XC60 than other midsize luxury SUVs,” according to the HLDI’s study.

Mercedes-Benz offers a forward collision system that works at higher speeds and beeps to alert the driver it is going to automatically stop the vehicle if another car suddenly stops in front of you. Lexus has a Pre-Collision System, which pulls the front seatbelts tight and prepares brake assist to help stop the vehicle when you slam on the brakes.

The HDLI videotaped its driving tests of the Volvo system to show how it works, and can be viewed here. The Institute says it is in the process of evaluating crash avoidance systems from other automakers.

We recently tested a 2011 Volvo S60, which not only had the City Safety system, but also lane departure warning, blind spot alert, Pedestrian Technology system and Distance Alert system. While we found that some of these optional safety features are expensive, they may be worth the money to help you avoid an accident.

Volvo’s City Safety system is beneficial at preventing low-speed accidents that occur in congested city traffic or crowded parking lots. It comes standard on Volvo XC60, S60, S80 and XC70 models.

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