Historically, vehicle safety technology has focused almost exclusively on preventing or minimizing injury or death in the event of a collision. Technologies such as antilock brakes and electronic stability control allow vehicles to automatically adjust braking and throttle in order to help drivers maintain control of the vehicle in the event of a loss of traction. Now, some models offer systems that can automatically apply the brakes if a collision is imminent.
The industry calls these systems “front crash prevention systems,” and in a big step forward for the technology, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has begun rating their performance, much the same way as they rate how well cars protect occupants during various types of collisions.
The key part of the technology is a radar system incorporated into the front of the car that detects other vehicles or pedestrians in the car’s path. The system will then provide audible and visible warnings to the driver if there is a danger of collision. Many models with the warning technology also offer a component called Autobrake. Autobrake enables a car to apply the brakes without any driver input if a collision is imminent. Depending on a number of variables, any given collision may either be avoided completely or occur at a dramatically reduced speed.
Models earned an “advanced” or “superior” rating based on the performance of their Autobrake capabilities. Those vehicles equipped with warning systems but no Autobrake earned a “basic” rating. The best performing system came from Subaru. The other manufacturers to earn a superior rating were Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.