A recent study involving the Volvo XC60 could offer added momentum to federal regulators' interest in crash-avoidance technology.
In July, the Highway Loss Data Institute -- an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety -- published a study demonstrating that the XC60, which has a low-speed collision-avoidance system dubbed City Safety, was involved in fewer property damage accidents than other mid-sized luxury SUVs.
David Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief, issued a statement last month saying the agency was "deeply interested" in crash-avoidance technology.
Indeed, last March the agency issued a report on safety issues for 2011 through 2013 that suggested that crash-avoidance technology could offer a "large benefit."
Later this year, NHTSA will decide whether to initiate rule-making to make crash-avoidance systems mandatory. The agency also has developed a test of such systems for its New Car Assessment Program, which measures the crashworthiness of new vehicles.
Thus, the Volvo study comes at a propitious time for the industry's safety suppliers, since the data appear to support NHTSA's interest in the technology.
"Driver mistakes are responsible for 90 percent of crashes," said Adrian Lund, the insurance institute's president. "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.