Crash avoidance gear gets a boost from insurers
David Sedgwick is a special correspondent for Automotive News.
You could hear suppliers sighing with relief on July 3 after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its safety analysis of collision avoidance technology.
The institute examined crash data for collision avoidance systems used by Acura, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. The systems use radar or cameras to peer down the road and warn drivers of impending accidents.
Accidents for Acura and Mercedes models were 14 percent less likely when the vehicles were equipped with forward collision warning with autonomous braking.
Crashes were 10 percent less likely for Volvos.
The study reassures Delphi Automotive, Robert Bosch, Continental, Denso and others that have invested heavily in such systems.
But the big improvements in safety aren't likely to come until cars can communicate their location to each other, thus avoiding pile-ups.
In August, the Department of Transportation starts a 3,000-car road test in Michigan to assess car-to-car communication and has high hopes that the technology can cut accidents.
There are two big ifs: Federal regulators would have to mandate car-to-car communications. And most vehicles would have to be equipped with collision avoidance radar.
That's why the insurance institute's endorsement was so important. When automakers introduced antilock brakes, the institute concluded antilock brakes had no measurable impact on the accident rate.
That slowed automakers' adoption of antilock brakes. It wasn't until they added stability control that the accident rate went down. Stability control systems -- which use antilock brakes to control vehicles during high-speed turns -- work well because an onboard computer makes decisions for the driver.
I think we'll see a similar pattern with collision avoidance. We won't enjoy big reductions in the accident rate until vehicles can talk to each other, allowing onboard computers to take evasive action with or without the driver's help.
Suppliers of these systems are going to make a pile of money, but they may have to wait a decade or so for the payoff.
You can reach David Sedgwick at firstname.lastname@example.org.