In the never-ending game of automotive safety one-upmanship, manufacturers are employing increasingly advanced collision avoidance technology. With its name virtually synonymous with safety, Volvo has established an early lead in this new field, making its City Safety low-speed collision avoidance system standard on the XC60 crossover and the S60 sedan.
But does City Safety really work? According to a recent study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, the answer is yes.
City Safety is designed to prevent low-speed accidents that may not cause many injuries, but definitely cause headaches for those involved. At low speeds – below 19 mph – a laser sensor scans the road ahead. When it detects that traffic ahead has slowed or stopped, the system sounds an alerts and applies the brakes, bringing the car to a full stop if the driver doesn’t respond. The idea is to either prevent accidents altogether, or at the very least minimize their consequences.
After analyzing insurance claim data, the HLDI says that the system works as advertised. “This is our first real-world look at an advanced crash avoidance technology, and the findings are encouraging,” said HLDI president Adrian Lund in a statement. “City Safety is helping XC60 drivers avoid the kinds of front-to-rear, low-speed crashes that frequently happen on congested roads.”
HLDI analysts compared data for property damage, bodily injury, and collision insurance claims for the 2010 Volvo XC60 against other 2009-2010 midsize luxury SUVs and other 2009-2010 Volvo models. After correcting for geography and demographic factors, the analysts discovered that the XC60′s claim frequencies were lower than all other SUVs combined, and also significantly lower than other Volvo models.
Although the frequency of claims was lower, the study also showed that the average property damage liability cost of $3,058 was higher than the other groups. However, the HLDI says that this is further evidence that City Safety works. While City Safety prevents relatively low-cost claims (less than $1,500), the XC60′s rate of high-severity claims ($7,000 and higher) is the same as the vehicles in the other group. This drives up the amount of the average claim.
No electronic system can ever replace human judgment, but the HLDI report suggests that they can be helpful in preventing accidents. The Institute says it is looking at the effectiveness of other accident avoidance technologies to see if they’re as effective as Volvo’s system. If the data is as convincing, you’ll be seeing these systems proliferate faster than ever.