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IIHS Launches Crash-Avoidance Ratings for New Vehicles

By: Jeff Youngs, 10/2/2013
According to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), forward-collision warning and automatic braking systems are helping to reduce the incidence of front-to-rear crashes. In light of this information, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has launched a new test program that rates the effectiveness of these features.

"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 IIHS assigns a rating of Basic, Advanced, or Superior to forward-collision warning systems depending on whether they are offered as standard or optional equipment, whether they include an autonomous braking system, and whether they can successfully stop a vehicle based on different speed thresholds. With the new ratings, the IIHS hopes to educate consumers about which systems are the most effective at preventing collisions, and to encourage automakers to include the technology on more vehicles.

A Basic rating is given to any vehicle that offers a forward-collision warning system that meets performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

To earn an Advanced rating, a vehicle's forward-collision warning technology must include an autonomous braking feature, and the vehicle is subjected to two tests: one conducted at 12 mph and the other conducted at 25 mph. An Advanced rating is given if the vehicle successfully avoids a crash or reduces a vehicle's speed by at least 5 mph prior to impact in either of the tests.

Models receiving a Superior rating include autonomous braking and can either avoid a collision or substantially reduce vehicle speed prior to impact in both the 12-mph and the 25-mph tests.

To date, the IIHS has tested 74 models from the 2013 and 2014 model years. Seven models are rated Superior when equipped with a forward-collision warning system and autonomous braking technology, and are listed below in alphabetical order:

Cadillac ATS
Cadillac SRX
Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volvo S60
Volvo XC60

According to the IIHS, the Subaru EyeSight system is the highest performer of all models tested, successfully avoiding a collision at both 12 mph and 25 mph. For 2014, Subaru has expanded availability of its EyeSight technology to include mid-level Premium trim levels of its models in addition to the luxury-oriented Limited trim level. The next highest performer was Cadillac's Automatic Collision Preparation system.

"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 said.

In addition to these seven models, another six nameplates receive an Advanced rating when forward-collision warning and autonomous braking are both present:

Acura MDX (2014 model only)
Audi A4
Audi Q5
Jeep Grand Cherokee (2014 model only)
Lexus ES
Mazda 6 (2014 model only)

Not all models equipped with autonomous braking are able to ascend beyond a Basic rating in the new testing. The BMW 3 Series is one of those models, as well as the Infiniti JX, which is renamed the Infiniti QX60 for the 2014 model year.

The Toyota Prius V offers autonomous braking, but does not meet the basic criteria set by the NHTSA for what constitutes an effective forward-collision warning system. It joins 35 other tested models that either don't offer front crash prevention technology or don't meet the NHTSA's basic criteria.

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