Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG are among automakers that are improving and speeding up their use of automatic brakes as part of efforts to reduce front-end crashes, a U.S. safety group said.
The BMW 5-Series and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz E-Class were two models with the most reliable systems, which use sensors, cameras and lasers to anticipate collisions and slow the car down, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in a report today. The systems are a focus of U.S. regulators looking to reduce highway crashes, which claimed 33,561 lives in 2012.
What was once an optional package, for which consumers had to pay extra, is now beginning to become standard, including in some models of Mercedes-Benz, Volvo AB and Honda Motor Co. Acura vehicles, the institute said. Google Inc. is also using the technology as a building block for driverless cars.
“We know that this technology is helping,” said David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer at Arlington, Virginia-based IIHS. “Reducing the speed reduces the amount of damage that occurs to both the striking and struck cars and reduces injuries to people in those cars.”
The industry-backed research group has been trying to accelerate the introduction of the technology and began ranking cars with the systems in September.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed performance criteria for systems that warn drivers of an approaching object, like the back end of a stopped car. Automakers offering systems that meet the regulator’s criteria earn a “basic” rating from IIHS.
The institute gives “advanced” ratings to systems that automatically apply brakes in case drivers do not. Cars that brake harder without driver input, like BMW’s 5-Series and X5 sport-utility vehicle, got both a perfect score and a “superior” rating.
BMW’s technology has improved from 2013, when the Munich-based company received a score of basic for the more limited system installed on its 3-Series sedans.
Two other cars got the highest possible score: the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Hyundai Motor Co. Genesis. Four models from General Motors Co. also earned superior marks: The Cadillac CTS and XTS, the Buick Regal and the Chevrolet Impala.
Front-crash prevention systems sense when a vehicle is getting too close to one in front of it. If the space closes too fast, drivers get an audio or visual warning. Brakes can be pre-charged to maximize stopping potential, or they can apply autonomously.
The institute ranked 14 models based on their crash-avoidance capability. Earlier testing ranked 86 other vehicles. Complete test results can be found on the institute’s website, www.iihs.org.
More than 20 percent of 2014 U.S. cars and light trucks offer safety systems with automatic braking, usually as part of a package of options, the institute said. Forward-collision warnings are optional on about 40 percent of the fleet.