DETROIT -- A study of the Volvo XC60's low accident rate offers evidence that collision avoidance systems can improve vehicle safety.
The XC60, which has a low-speed collision avoidance system dubbed City Safety, was involved in 27 percent fewer property damage accidents than other mid-sized luxury SUVs, according to a report released today by the Highway Loss Data Institute.
The XC60 also was involved in 51 percent fewer bodily injury accidents.
Plus, the XC60 was 19 percent less likely than other Volvos to be involved in property damage accidents, the report says. Institute President Adrian Lund said that statistic is noteworthy because, in effect, it eliminates any notion that Volvo drivers are simply safer drivers than a general sampling of drivers.
The survey suggests that collision avoidance systems can effectively help distracted motorists who fail to notice an impending accident, Lund said.
"Driver mistakes are responsible for 90 percent of crashes," Lund said in an interview. "This is the first technology that can reach out to the driver at the moment of danger and bring his mind back to the danger."
City Safety uses an infrared laser sensor -- dubbed lidar -- to spot possible accidents at speeds ranging from 2 to 19 mph. If the motorist fails to react in time, the system automatically activates the brakes. The unit is not designed for speeds above 19 mph.
Later this year, the Institute will study the effectiveness of collision avoidance systems designed for high speeds, Lund said.
The Institute said there has been no other comparable data made public about the technology.
"This is the first real-world data on so-called advanced collision avoidance systems," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the parent organization of the Highway Loss Data Institute.
Volvo spokesman Dan Johnston said the new study validates the automaker's internal data base, which has details of 40,000 accidents involving Volvo vehicles.
"For us, it's the first time we've had real-world results" that confirms the effectiveness of City Safety, Johnston said.
City Safety was designed by Germany's Continental AG, which is providing a similar unit to Ford Motor Co. This spring, Ford introduced its own version on the European Ford Focus. So far, Ford has not announced plans to introduce it in North America.
Dean McConnell, Continental's North American director for passive safety and advanced driver assistance systems, says it would be possible to combine lidar with a camera to create a collision avoidance systems that works at speeds up to 30 mph.
For autobahn speeds, radar is considered most reliable. Volvo, for example, has introduced a high-speed radar unit designed by Delphi Automotive LLP.
In an interview with Automotive News, McConnell said U.S. motorists will opt for collision avoidance when insurers start offering discounts. And now that statistical evidence is available, that may happen soon.
"There should be a significant groundswell… which will make it a better deal for the consumer," McConnell said.
The study results already have the attention of U.S. safety regulators. David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement today that the agency is "deeply interested" in crash avoidance technology.
"That's why NHTSA is currently conducting extensive research on 'forward collision warning' systems -- as well as the rapidly evolving crash imminent braking and dynamic brake support systems.
"The agency is aware of Volvo's impressive City Safety system and the many other systems that operate at higher speeds and hold the promise of preventing deaths and injuries as well as preventing property damage. As we continue to evaluate these systems and their ability to reduce the frequency and severity of vehicle collisions, we are pleased to see automobile manufacturers moving forward with new technologies designed to improve safety."
Philip Nussel contributed to this report.