Safety for Everybody—Almost

“Most motorists won't be riding in driverless cars anytime soon.

“Most motorists won't be riding in driverless cars anytime soon. In the shorter term, automatic braking is an accessible technology that's within reach for many drivers. We've seen an uptick in the number of luxury and mainstream models with available autobrake. That's a welcome sign for highway safety and helps pave the way for the eventual deployment of fully autonomous vehicles,” says David Zuby, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer.

The fact that luxury models offer the technology isn’t all that surprising. After all, that’s where advanced technology tends to be initially deployed, and then when production costs are sufficiently low(ered), then there’s the mainstream deployment.

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Automatic braking generally combines radar and camera-sensors to determine if there is something ahead, be it another vehicle or a pedestrian, and if it seems as though the vehicle is going to hit if. If so, then the driver is alerted, usually by lights and buzzers, and if the driver still doesn’t do his or her job, then the car autonomously applies the brakes.

(It’s interesting to note that there are often ethical dilemmas put forth regarding autonomous vehicles, such as: Assume there’s a group of school children and a tree. The car has to hit one of them. If it is the tree, the occupant of the vehicle will die. If it is the children, then. . . . Isn’t it curious that you never hear someone say: If someone is so distracted while driving that he or she ignores the lights and buzzers and doesn’t apply the binders, is that person ethically responsible enough to drive?)

The IIHS is interested in preventing accidents. It was founded in 1959 by three insurance companies. Accident prevention is a whole lot better for them than paying claims.

So it has been rating cars for the past several years, and car companies are as interested in receiving a Top Safety Pick+ Award as they are a good review by Consumer Reports and an award from J.D. Power.

One of the new metrics that IIHS is applying to vehicles it rates is whether they have front crash prevention.

Mercedes is well established in the space. Its C-Class, E-Class and CLA all provide the tech as standard.

Other manufacturers that make the Superior (5 to 6 points in auto brake testing and extra credit for forward collision warning) or Advanced (2 to 4 points and the same extra credit) include BMW with the X3 and Acura with the MDX, RDX and ILX.

But then there are the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger. The Mazda6 and CX-5. And Volkswagen with the Golf, GolfSportwagen, Touareg, and Jetta.

Safer is better and a solid suite of sensors can help.