Investigators

Automatic braking features can help reduce collisions

A new study says car crashes and injuries can be reduced significantly if a new technology is used to stop vehicles in emergencies if the drivers fail to brake in time.

Having a system to stop your car in case you’re distracted or your reflexes just aren’t fast enough appears to be a huge bonus.

The recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of GM cars equipped with optional crash detection and automatic braking features shows crashes were reduced by 43 percent and injuries from those kinds of crashes dropped a whopping 64 percent.

For vehicles equipped with forward collision warning only, the crash rate reductions were 17 percent for all front-to-rear crashes and 30 percent for front-to-rear crashes with injuries.

According to the IIHS, “The results echo an earlier IIHS study involving Acura, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Volvo vehicles.”

In that study, the institute found “the combination of forward collision warning and autobrake reduced front-to-rear crash rates by 50 percent for crashes of all severities and 56 percent for front-to-rear crashes with injuries.”

In the case of vehicles without automatic braking which only have forward collision warning systems, the IIHS found crash rates were cut by 27 percent and injuries from crashes were reduced 20 percent.

The IIHS has been looking at automatic braking system for some time now. How do these systems work?  

Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia recently spent several days at the institutes Ruckersville, Virginia headquarters to find out.

Test engineer Steve Griffin was working with the Hyundai Tuscan model when Sbraccia visited.

“This vehicle is equipped with radar and camera systems – so we can identify, warn and prevent a collision like the target we see you down the street,” explained Griffin.

He then drove 15 miles an hour at a barrier on their test track which replicated a stopped car in the middle of the road.

“As we proceed straight ahead, the vehicle has identified a potential obstacle. It’ll warn you, and then it’ll brake," Griffin said.

It’s was a safe stop—but a hard stop that threw Sbraccia and Griffin against their seat belts.

Griffin explained why that stop was so hard.

“It’s waiting till the very last minute to apply the brakes. It gives you the warning in advance so you can respond.”

If the driver doesn’t react, the car takes over and slams on the brakes.

In that case, the institute was testing cars to see how well their automatic braking systems responded.

In the GM study, The new research involved 2013-15 Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands.

GM provided vehicle identification numbers for vehicles with and without front crash and other crash avoidance systems.

Twenty automakers have agreed to make automatic emergency braking "standard" on just about every new car by 2022.


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