The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is once again looking to improve how it rates new cars in order to make it easier for shoppers to buy the safest cars on the market. In addition to recent test additions like the roof crush and small overlap frontal crash, the IIHS will now be adding collision avoidance technologies to its criteria for attaining a Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Since the safest way to survive a crash is to avoid it altogether, the IIHS developed a procedure (click the above image for an enlarged version of what the test looks like) and an accompanying rating system to test the various crash-avoidance systems currently offered by almost all automakers. This entails putting forward collision warning and autonomous braking systems to the test at speeds of 12 and 25 miles per hour to see how well the systems do to either prevent or reduce impact speeds. Vehicles are then given a rating from Superior (best), Advanced or Basic; cars that do not offer FCW or auto braking are not given a rating. To earn a 2014 Top Safety Pick+ rating, a vehicle must earn at least a Basic rating in this test.

To kick off the new procedure, the IIHS tested 74 "moderately priced" midsize vehicles. Subaru came out on top with Legacy and Outback models equipped with EyeSight avoiding collisions at both speeds. Cadillac's Automatic Collision Preparation avoided a collision at the lower speed and reduced the impact speeds in the ATS and SRX at the 25-mph test. The Volvo S60 and XC60 also performed well with City Safety, Collision Warning with Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection, while the Mercedes-Benz C-Class with Distronic Plus rounded out the top seven vehicles that received the Superior rating. Six vehicles earned the Advanced rating, 25 vehicles received the Basic rating and 36 vehicles did not offer a crash avoidance system.

While the ultimate goal is to make driving safer, the organization is also trying to make vehicle repair following accidents less expensive. As an example of this, a 2013 Mercedes C-Class was crashed into a Chevy Malibu (the IIHS loves crashing Malibus, doesn't it?) at both test speeds. At 12 mph, the damage to both vehicles was $5,715, but the 25-mph test resulted in $28,131 worth of damage and the Malibu being totaled. Scroll down for more information on this new test procedure and to watch a video from the IIHS explaining its test and the technology required to make it work.


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IIHS issues first crash avoidance ratings under new test program;
Seven midsize vehicles earn top marks for front crash prevention

ARLINGTON, Va. - A new test program by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the performance of front crash prevention systems to help consumers decide which features to consider and encourage automakers to speed adoption of the technology. The rating system is based on research by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) indicating that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems are helping drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes.

The Institute rates models with optional or standard front crash prevention systems as superior, advanced or basic depending on whether they offer autonomous braking, or autobrake, and, if so, how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph. Vehicles rated superior have autobrake and can avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in both tests. For an advanced rating a vehicle must have autobrake and avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in 1 of 2 tests.

To earn a basic rating, a 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. The agency identifies vehicles with compliant systems at safercar.gov/Safety+Ratings.

Moderately priced and luxury midsize cars and SUVs are the first to be evaluated in the new IIHS test program. These include 74 vehicles, all 2013-14 models. Seven earn the highest rating of superior when equipped with optional autobrake and forward collision warning systems. They are the Cadillac ATS sedan and SRX SUV, Mercedes-Benz CClass sedan, Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback wagon, Volvo S60 sedan and XC60 SUV.

Six models earn an advanced rating when equipped with autobrake and forward collision warning. These include the 2014 Acura MDX SUV, Audi A4 sedan and Q5 SUV, 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, Lexus ES sedan and the 2014 Mazda 6 sedan. In addition, the Volvo S60 and XC60 earn an advanced rating when they aren't equipped with an option called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection. The S60 and XC60 are the only models in the new test program with standard autobrake. Called City Safety, the system brakes to avoid a front-to-rear crash in certain low-speed conditions without warning the driver before it takes action.

Twenty-five other vehicles earn a basic rating. Three models available with forward collision warning earn higher ratings when equipped with autobrake. They are the 2014 Acura MDX and the Cadillac ATS and SRX. Thirty-six models either don't offer a front crash prevention system, or they have a system that doesn't meet NHTSA or IIHS criteria.

"Front crash prevention systems can add a thousand dollars or more to the cost of a new car. Our new ratings let consumers know which systems offer the most promise for the extra expense," says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.

The front crash prevention ratings complement the Institute's long-standing crash test program telling consumers how well passenger vehicles protect people in a range of crash configurations. In its crashworthiness program, the Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.

For crash avoidance technologies, the Institute developed a three-tier rating system of superior, advanced and basic to reflect that even a basic forward collision warning system can provide significant benefits.

About the technology
Front crash prevention is part of a larger group of crash avoidance features spreading through the U.S. vehicle fleet. Marketed under various trade names, system capabilities vary by manufacturer and model, and most are offered as optional add-ons. In general, current front crash prevention systems fall into two categories: forward collision warning and front crash mitigation or prevention with autobrake.

Forward collision warning alerts a driver when the system detects that the vehicle is about to crash into the vehicle in front, but the system doesn't slow down or stop the vehicle. Some forward collision warning systems are combined with an autobrake system to reduce vehicle speeds in a crash, but they aren't designed to avoid the collision. Acura's Collision Mitigation Brake System is an example.

Other autobrake systems can slow down or completely stop the car to avoid some front-to-rear crashes if its driver doesn't brake or steer out of the way in response to a warning. Like the Acura system, these will reduce the speed of those crashes they can't prevent. Cadillac's Automatic Collision Preparation and Volvo's Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection combined with City Safety are examples.

Another design difference involves whether the vehicle ahead is stopped or moving. All of the front crash prevention systems that earn a superior or advanced rating from IIHS are capable of braking for a stopped or slower-moving vehicle. Some other systems are designed to brake for a stopped car ahead only if sensors first detect the car moving before it stops. The BMW 3 series sedan is available with this type of system. It gets a basic rating for front crash prevention.

"The point of autobrake systems is to help inattentive drivers avoid rear-ending another car," Zuby explains. "It's clear that the ability to automatically brake for both stopped and moving vehicles prevents the most crashes."

Test track evaluations
To gauge how autobrake systems from different manufacturers perform, the Institute conducted a
series of five test runs at speeds of 12 and 25 mph on the track at the Vehicle Research Center in
Ruckersville, Va. In each test, an engineer drove the vehicle toward a stationary target designed to simulate the back of a car. Sensors in the test vehicle monitored its lane position, speed, time to collision, braking and other data. The IIHS protocol is similar to the procedure the European New Car Assessment Programme uses to evaluate autobrake systems, which the group plans to begin rating in 2014.

The Institute awards as many as five points based on how much the systems slow the vehicle to avoid hitting the inflatable target or lessen the severity of the impact. In the case of an unavoidable collision, lowering the striking vehicle's speed reduces the crash energy that vehicle structures and restraint systems have to manage. That reduces the amount of damage to both the striking and struck car and minimizes injuries to people traveling in them.

"We decided on 25 mph because development testing indicated that results at this speed were indicative of results at higher speeds - and because higher-speed tests would risk damaging the test vehicles," Zuby says. "As such, we expect crash mitigation benefits at higher speeds as well."

A vehicle must achieve 4 to 5 autobrake points to earn a superior rating and 1 to 3 points for an advanced rating. Vehicles get one additional point if they have a forward collision warning system that meets NHTSA criteria.

The highest-scoring cars and SUVs have autobrake and substantially reduce speeds in both the 12 and 25 mph tests. Most of these systems prevent the 12 mph collision.

Subaru's EyeSight performed best. It helped the Legacy and Outback avoid hitting the target at both test speeds. Next best was Cadillac's Automatic Collision Preparation. The system helped the ATS and SRX avoid hitting the target in the 12 mph test and reduced the ATS's speed by 15 mph and the SRX's speed by 19 mph in the 25 mph test.

"We want to help get the most effective systems in as many vehicles as soon as possible. That means a speed mitigation system like Subaru's EyeSight that can prevent crashes at low and moderate speeds," Zuby says. "At the same time, we want consumers to know that forward collision warning alone can help them avoid crashes, and it's a feature that's available on more models than autobrake."

Besides the BMW 3 series, another midsize model advertised with autobrake also earns a basic rating. In tests of the Infiniti JX SUV, there was only minimal braking at 12 and 25 mph. The Toyota Prius v wagon, which claims to have autobrake, had minimal braking in IIHS tests and currently fails to meet NHTSA criteria for forward collision warning. It doesn't qualify for an IIHS front crash prevention rating.

New criteria for highest safety accolade
The Institute introduced the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award last year to recognize models with the best crash protection. To qualify for the 2014 award, vehicles must earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention. This is in addition to a good or acceptable rating for occupant protection in a small overlap front crash, plus good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

To qualify for a 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK award, models must earn a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test, plus good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Winners of the 2014 awards will be announced in December.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 49 Comments
      Burabus
      • 1 Year Ago
      The same idiots arguing against this are the same idiots who argued against seat belts and air bags. Apparently the commentators here all have F1 driving skills and complete situational awareness, always.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Burabus
        [blocked]
      Michael
      • 1 Year Ago
      All this money and technology to help drivers that don't know how to drive. We should be developing something that keeps drivers from texting in the car, that would also prevent accidents too.
      Cruising
      • 1 Year Ago
      You know what's sucks, on looker delay. Not even a big accident two cars had a love tap with no physical damage and you have traffic backed up for miles because folks in the opposite lane slow down to look. If these types of accidents can be avoided it will make life easier for all.
      LW
      • 1 Year Ago
      First doors, then hard roofs, then 4 wheel brakes, then the elimination of spike shaped steering columns, then spongy dashboards, then seat belts, then anti-intrusion beams, then crumple zones, then safety cell, then abs, then airbags, then stability control, now this. Why are they taking the thrill of potential death out of driving?
      Nick Brown
      • 1 Year Ago
      So that when you're texting and driving in traffic you no longer have to pay attention to who's in front of you. Yeah I said it, they tested for 12-25mph.... Seriously. Why not just take people's licenses away and invest in public transport. If you need a warning system to tell you you are going to crash, you shouldn't be driving.
      dukeisduke
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is the target the new Smart, wearing camo?
      IBx27
      • 1 Year Ago
      Crash avoidance systems, you mean the steering wheel, brakes, and a driver who knows to put down the phone when driving and pay attention to the damn road?
      MarkK
      • 1 Year Ago
      The most effective "collision avoidance technologies" are a well-trained driver, in a decent-handling and properly maintained vehicle, who is paying attention to the act of driving. Electronic nannies add weight, cost, and complexity. Not to mention annoying beeps, vibrations, and lights. And where are the studies saying they things actually save lives/reduce claims versus encouraging further driver complacency?
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MarkK
        Our traffic accident rates and death rates have all been trending down over the last 30 years or so, proving that all of the safety regulations have done wonders. Contrary to most pessimists, I think american divers are extremely well trained. Most american drivers started driving at age 16. In most other countries, people start driving much later. As a result, driving is much more of a second nature to american drivers. Our drivers typically drive a lot more miles than other drivers too. In fact, I think the biggest problem is not insufficient training. It\'s over-confidence due to too much familiarity with driving.
          LW
          • 1 Year Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          Americans are probably better drivers because they are having people start driving when they are 16, whihc weeds out the future nuisance drivers early by having them die in accidents before their brain fully develops and could make sound decisions on their irrational actions behind the wheel.
          ksrcm
          • 1 Year Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          @icemilkcoffee You ARE joking, right?
        flychinook
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MarkK
        The "annoying beeps, vibrations, and lights" should only be happening when the safety systems kick in.
      Koenigsegg
      • 1 Year Ago
      "collision avoidance technologies" stupidest thing ever, you are driving you should be paying attention absolutely worthless you see everything ahead when driving
        Milwaukee, WY
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Yet these types of crashes happen all the time. Just witnessed a nasty rear end collision during afternoon rush hour today on I-94 in Milwaukee. Solara ran hard into the back of a grand Cherokee. I felt the shockwave from the crash going the opposite direction five lanes over. I agree in a perfect world these systems wouldn't be needed. But I guarantee the driver of the Solara was messing with his/her phone. If this technology protects me from being hit from behind, I say bring it on.
        Jake
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Electronic reaction time beats meat reaction time.
          Jake
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jake
          snicker. I said "beats meat".
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 1 Year Ago
      IIHS finds ways to increase cost on consumers because we all know these options will soon be mandated.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cool Disco Dan
        You are aware that the IIHS is an industry trade group for the insurance industry, right? They are not a government agency.
      Jermaine Perkins
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ok, so my car knows I'm texting and not paying attention while driving in traffic. I'm getting too close to the car in front of me so it decides to slam on the brakes to help me out. HOWEVER, did it notice the semi trailer bearing down on me from the rear? Did it realize that it just set me up for a rear end collision? Now lets flip the coin. I've been trained to drive correctly meaning I'm paying attention at all times and see the vehicle ahead of me stopping so I gradually apply the brakes to bring my vehicle to a stop. But wit there's more not that semi sees my break lights in plenty of time to actually do it's own stopping. Presto NO CRASH! Trained drive = 1, electronic nanny = 0
        Camaroman101
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jermaine Perkins
        i think a truck driver, since his career is based on it, would be paying attention to the road moreso than most drivers. also even if you were in a lifted SUV his viewpoint is much higher than yours, so he would see the traffic ahead of you.
        flychinook
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jermaine Perkins
        The FCW should only kick in if a collision is imminent. So yes, of course paying attention is better, but for that time that you aren't (and the semi driver isn't paying attention either), FCW may keep you from becoming the beef in an automotive patty melt.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jermaine Perkins
        The semi trailer behind you also has FCW. Problem solved.
          ksrcm
          • 1 Year Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          Ah! So ... you weren't joking about Americans being best drivers after all. Only in U.S. are big rigs allowed to travel the same speed as cars because it is well-known fact that they can do evasive maneuvers like open-wheel racers and they can stop in half the distance of the normal cars. Right?
      ksrcm
      • 1 Year Ago
      How to avoid collision: 1. Get a vehicle with low center of gravity 2. Get a nimble vehicle that can get out of the harm's way without killing you in a rollover 3. Above all: make sure you switch your brain switch to "ON" before you turn your car's switch to "ON" position AND KEEP IT ON FOR A DURATION OF YOUR TRIP. Everything else doesn't matter all that much when you stop and truly think about it.
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