There are so many new safety technologies available that it’s hard to figure out which, if any of them, actually keep you safe. The Highway Loss Data Institute, a division of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigated some of the newer technologies, including forward collision avoidance, active headlights, and lane departure warning, and found that most of them do their jobs quite well.
But, surprisingly enough, one doesn’t.
Measuring cars optioned with and without the active crash-avoidance technologies, HDLI found Acura, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo cars equipped with forward collision avoidance and active braking technology came in with 14 percent fewer collisions than the models that didn’t. That is, the cars that braked automatically when sensing an imminent collision were found to be safer than the ones that simply had blinking lights or loud beeps to signify an impending collision.
While the Volvo posted its active braking technology as a significant strength, the HLDI said, statistically speaking, that the other features bundled with them—lane departure warning and fatigue warning sensors—could have boosted its numbers. The HLDI wasn’t able to test each feature in the Volvo separately. Where Volvo keeps its safety technology together, the Germans and Japanese offer them a la carte. Mercedes-Benz’s automatic braking system showed more collision damage claims than its cars not equipped with them, and the Volvo proved significantly safer with automatic braking.
But frontal crash avoidance technologies, which automatically beep or flash lights, might not be the safest next-generation technology. Adaptive headlights showed more a significant decrease in claims versus their stationary headlights counterparts when it came to accidents. Adaptive headlights swivel as a car goes around a corner to better show the road at night. HLDI says accident claims fell as much as 10 percent with Mercedes-Benz’s active headlight technology versus standard headlights, the most of the cars compared.
Lane departure warning didn’t fare as well, though. HLDI says it may actually serve as a distraction in driving, prompting the agency to say the new technology may still be too early in its infancy to see improvements. Both Mercedes-Benz and Buick showed the technologies to be ineffective, while Volvo’s system—packaged as a suite—decreases collision claims.
So what does all of this mean? The next generation of crash avoidance technologies are mostly doing their jobs, but they’re not perfect. Volvo’s system flies through testing the smoothest because it designed all of its sensors and monitors to work in concert with one another. But if you think simply purchasing a lane departure warning system option as an extra will make you or your car safer, think again. Not all crash-avoidance technologies are created equally.