Cars that have auto-braking systems get caught up in far fewer rear-end crashes, and that’s no surprise, because rear-enders usually happen when people aren’t paying attention. A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that auto-braking systems reduce rear-end crashes by around 40%.
Self-driving cars won’t arrive on the market fully formed, ready to free our roads from the terror of projectiles piloted by distracted humans. They’ll infiltrate slowly, until one day we realize we haven’t touched the wheel in weeks. And we’ll be happy about it, because by then, autonomous car tech will have proven itself to be much safer.
While the best results come from cars that can stop themselves, even a collision-warning system cuts rear-enders by 23%, by scaring drivers into stamping on the brakes themselves. "If all vehicles had been equipped with auto-brake that worked as well as the systems studied, there would have been at least 700,000 fewer police-reported, rear-end crashes in 2013," says the report.
The figures behind their study come from police reports. Researchers compared the figures for rear-end crashes from 2010-2014 involving Acura, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Volvo vehicles with optional front crash prevention. They compared crash rates of cars fitted with auto-brakes with the same models not fitted with front collision protection. Aside from the massive 40% reduction in crash rates, injuries in general decreased. Rear-enders resulting in injury decreased by 42%.
"Even when a crash isn't avoided, systems that have auto-brake have a good chance of preventing injuries by reducing the impact speed," IIHS’s Jessica Cicchino said in the report.
Right back to airbags, first seen in cars in the 1970s, automated safety devices have been saving lives. The real difference is that these new autonomous safety systems, which actually take control of the car, also help out other road users. After all, if your car avoids a crash, it is—by definition—not crashing into anyone else.
The only group set to lose out from this trend is the lawyers who litigate, suing for compensation for fake whiplash injuries, a result which nobody will lament. Except, ironically, the insurance industry that pays out on these fraudulent suits, which stands to lose lots of money as cars get safer.