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IIHS Tests Effectiveness of Automated Braking Systems in New Car Models

IIHS Tests Effectiveness of Automated Braking Systems in New Car Models

By Philly Murtha, September 03, 2015


More than one-fourth (27%) of 2015 model-year vehicles offer a front crash-prevention system with intelligent or automated braking that will stop a vehicle without driver intervention to avoid a front end crash—more than double the percentage (11%) of models with the technology in the 2012 model year, according to a recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS provides auto safety ratings for consumers, including its “Top Safety Pick” awards.

Front crash-prevention systems use various types of sensors, such as cameras, radar, or laser, to detect when the vehicle is getting too close to another vehicle in front of it. Most systems issue a warning and precharge the brakes to maximize their effect if the driver responds by braking, according to the IIHS. Many systems automatically brake the vehicle if the driver doesn't respond. In some cases, automatic braking is activated without a warning.

Since this more sophisticated collision-avoidance safety technology is offered in a growing number of luxury and non-luxury models, the IIHS regularly conducts tests to judge the effectiveness of intelligent autobrake systems in front-end collisions at 12 mph and 25 mph. The Institute has developed three performance measurement ratings for autobraking crash-avoidance protection: Superior, Advanced, and Basic.

Vehicles that are rated “Superior” have autobrake and can avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in two tests. For an “Advanced” rating, a vehicle must have autobrake and avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in one of two tests. To earn a “Basic” rating, a vehicle must have a forward-collision warning system that meets performance criteria defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The IIHS reports that more than one-half of 2015 models offer forward-collision alert or warning systems as an option.

Both Luxury and Mass-Market Models Receive Highest Autobraking Safety Ratings
Although luxury models are more likely to have optional intelligent autobraking front crash-prevention systems, the technology is being adopted by mass-market nameplates. In the latest round of tests, seven of the 19 models with “Superior” or “Advanced” ratings are non-luxury models.

Fourteen models from six brands—Acura, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Dodge, and Mazda—earn the highest “Superior” rating in the front-end crash tests. Five models from Volkswagen and BMW were given the second-highest “Advanced” rating. Below are models earning top IIHS evaluations for autobraking crash protection:

  • Acura earns four “Superior” ratings for two luxury cars—the ILX and RLX—and two luxury SUVs—the MDX and RDX.
  • The 2016 BMW X3 compact SUV receives a “Superior” rating in front crash protection and also earns the second-highest “Advanced” rating when the model is equipped with BMW's camera-only system or when equipped with a camera- and radar-based system.
  • Three car models from Mercedes-Benz earn “Superior” ratings—the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class (versions equipped with Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Pre-Safe Brake systems); CLA-Class (versions equipped with Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Distronic Plus systems); and E-Class.
  • Four non-luxury models with intelligent autobraking systems also received “Superior” ratings: the 2015 Chrysler 300 and 2015 Dodge Charger and the 2016 Mazda6 sedan and CX-5 compact crossover.
  • Four more non-luxury models with intelligent autobraking from the Volkswagen brand earned the second-highest “Advanced” rating for front crash protection: the 2016 Volkswagen Golf, Golf SportWagen, and Jetta, and the 2015 Touareg small SUV.


This year, the IIHS reports that 47% of models sold today offer some kind of forward-collision warning system, which is up from 38% in 2014. However, these safety alert systems are standard on only 4% of new models, which matches the percentage a year ago. When the IIHS began its autobrake front crash tests in 2013, only 2% of models came with forward-collision alert as standard equipment.

The IIHS began measuring the effectiveness of these new systems in 2013 to help consumers gauge passenger-vehicle collision-avoidance performance in front crashes. “Automatic braking is an accessible technology that's within the price reach for many drivers. We've seen an uptick in the number of luxury and mainstream models with available autobrake,” concludes David Zuby, the Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer.

*The Institute requires an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating for front crash prevention as one of the criteria needed for a 2015 “Top Safety Pick+” award.

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