Most Important Safety Feature for 2016? Automatic Emergency Braking

Prius with AEB

Looking for a car with the latest in safety features? Automatic emergency braking (AEB) will have to top your list, especially as far as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and top automobile manufacturers are concerned.

Ten companies — Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo — will work with IIHS and NHTSA in the coming months on the details of implementing their historic commitment, including the timeline for making AEB a standard feature.

As the IIHS points out, automatic emergency braking includes a range of systems designed to address the large number of crashes, especially rear-end crashes, in which drivers do not apply the brakes or fail to apply sufficient braking power to avoid or mitigate a crash.

I recently tested the system out on the 2016 Toyota Prius. It worked flawlessly as it stopped me from running into a wall. Fortunately, that wall was made out of cardboard. The Prius also features a pedestrian-detection feature that stopped me from running over an Elvis mannequin.

The IIHS will require that cars have automatic emergency braking and front crash-warning systems to get the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus designation.

Curious why automatic emergency braking is important? According to one statistic, more than 1.7 million rear-end accidents happen in a year. It’s going to be probably 15 years before all cars have this feature, but it’s going to start making a dent in that number pretty soon. The 10 manufacturers committed to standard AEB account for 57 percent of all vehicle sales currently.

Also, the IIHS said, based on research it conducted, if all passenger vehicles were equipped with forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, and adaptive headlights, about 1 in 3 fatal crashes and 1 in 5 injury crashes could potentially be prevented or mitigated.

There’s another important safety feature becoming more prevalent on 2016 models: adaptive headlights. These headlights give you better visibility while driving through curves, because they turn in the direction of the wheels, instead of just pointing straight ahead. They have been available on high-end cars for a while.

Adaptive headlights also are reducing property-damage liability claims, according to the Highway Loss Damage Institute, a part of the IIHS. That’s another benefit of these safety features – reduced liability claims.

In one study, the IIHS crashed a 2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class into the back of a stationary 2012 Chevrolet Malibu. (How can I get a job doing this?) In the first test, the Mercedes struck the Malibu at 25 mph. That totaled the Chevy and caused total damage of $28,000. In the second test, AEB was used, and the collision speed was brought down to 13 mph. Damage to both cars was $5,700 – almost 80 percent less.

Curious which cars have which accident-avoidance features? The IIHS can help you out on its website.

-Keith Griffin

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