New Study Finds Automatic Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control Effective at Reducing Collisions

Rebecca Lindland | Apr 17, 2020

Many new cars offer a wide range of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) as either standard or optional equipment. These systems are designed to help drivers avoid collisions, but the real-world usefulness of ADAS still requires analysis. BMW's broad installation of ADAS with various levels of driver assistance in vehicles during model years 2013-2017 provided the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) an opportunity to study the effectiveness of these systems at lowering crashes and insurance claims.

2017 BMW 7 Series

During that period of time, BMW ADAS packages featured four different levels of technology. The first bundled lane departure warning and forward collision warning. A second package added front automatic emergency braking (AEB). The third Driving Assistance package included these features plus adaptive cruise control. The most advanced package, known as Driving Assistance Plus, added lane centering technology and front cross-traffic alert.

Sample sizes for each of these packages added up to nearly six million insured vehicle years but varied widely. The most sophisticated of BMW’s ADAS packages, Driver Assistance Plus, provided about 120,000 insured vehicle years of data, making this study the broadest examination of the impact on insurance losses of ADAS combining lane-centering with adaptive speed control.

The HLDI study explored the effect of each of BMW's crash avoidance packages on each of the following types of claims: collision, property damage liability, and bodily injury liability. According to the study results, three of the four BMW ADAS bundles reduced claim rates under all three types to varying degrees.

"The crash claim frequency reductions for BMW's Driving Assistance package are the largest we've seen from advanced driver assistance systems, which suggests crash avoidance may be delivering bigger benefits as the technology improves," says Matt Moore, senior vice president of HLDI.

BMW's most rudimentary package with forward collision and lane departure warnings did not reduce claims in a statistically significant manner. But adding automatic emergency braking did produce results, with a 5% reduction in the rate of collision claims, an 11% reduction in the frequency of property damage claims, and a 16% reduction in the number of bodily injury claims.

Upgrading the technology to the Driving Assistance package with adaptive cruise control produced even more significant reductions in two of the three types of insurance claims. Property damage claims declined by 27%, and bodily injury claims sank by 37%. The 6% reduction in collision claims with the Driving Assistance package was not statistically significant.

Adding lane centering and front cross-traffic alert with the Driving Assistance Plus package did not offer a statistically significant change to the claim frequency reduction.

"The lane centering that comes in the 'plus' package doesn't seem to augment these benefits. That may be because the system is only intended for use on freeways, which are comparatively safer than other roads, and only works when the driver switches it on. The important thing here is that both of the advanced systems were associated with large reductions in claim frequency and reductions in overall losses," Moore says. "But the specific impact of adding lane centering and a front cross-traffic alert isn't clear."

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) is the source of information in this article. It was accurate as of April 16, 2020 but may have changed since that time.

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