Crash Avoidance Technology Test (IIHS)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is adding an evaluation of automatic crash prevention systems to its criteria for a Top Safety Pick+ award.

In a press release, the IIHS says that the rating includes models equipped with forward collision warning and autonomous braking systems. The new tests evaluate how effective these systems are at reducing speeds and preventing a front-to-rear collision with another vehicle at speeds of 12 and 25 mph.

IIHS says there are three rating levels: "superior," "advanced" and "basic." For a vehicle to earn a superior rating, it must have autonomous braking and be able to "avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds" in both the 12 and 25 mph test. For the next-best advanced rating, the vehicle must have auto brake and either avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in one of the two tests. For a basic rating, the vehicle "must have a forward collision warning system that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performance criteria. For a NHTSA endorsement, a system must issue a warning before a specified time in 5 of 7 test trials under three scenarios."

In order to be named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS for 2014, a vehicle must now also earn at least a basic rating in the new test, in addition to scoring good in the moderate overlap front, rear, side and roof tests and no less than an acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.

So far, the IIHS has evaluated 74 affordable and luxury midsize cars and SUVs from 2013 and 2014 model years. Of those tested, seven models have earned the highest superior rating, including the Cadillac ATS and SRX, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan and Volvo S60 and XC60. Vehicles that earned an advanced rating include the Audi A4 and Q5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus ES, Mazda6 and Acura MDX. There are 25 vehicles that earned the basic rating and the remaining 36 models tested did not have a system that met IIHS or NHTSA criteria.

Kelley Blue Book Senior Analyst Alec Gutierrez says that the increasing prevalence of these sophisticated safety systems in the automotive market should lead to a decline in traffic accidents and subsequent injuries and death.

Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, adds that automated crash avoidance systems are an important factor as the industry moves to develop fully-autonomous vehicles. "If an industry goal is to have autonomously driven cars on the road by the end of this decade, IIHS’s initiative is a landmark chapter in making that happen."

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