File this one under pleasant non-surprises: thanks to some calculations by the Highway Loss Data Institute, it has been proven that cars with active collision avoidance systems do actually avoid low-speed collisions by around 25 percent.
The HLDI specifically lauded Volvo’s City Safety feature, which can apply 100 percent of braking force automatically. The system, which is designed only to work in speeds less than 19 mph, can avoid or diminish the severity of low-speed collisions in high traffic conditions.
HLDI found that when comparing the XC60 (which has had City Safety standard) to comparable midsize SUVs, property damage liability claims went down 27 percent, bodily injury claims went down 51 percent, and collision claims went down 22 percent.
Puzzling is the fact that the average claim amount for at-fault accidents went up $270, even when the number of crashes themselves went down. Volvo has an answer for that: when the number of low-speed crashes goes dramatically down, the remaining accidents are of greater severity; when you take many cheap rear-endings out of the equation, you’re left paying for the rollovers, front-end impacts, and “t-bone” crashes, which are both more dangerous and more expensive. The HLDI also reported that the number of these high-severity crashes involving the XC60 were roughly the same as its competitors.
Since the study period, Volvo has gone ahead and made City Safety standard on many other models like the 2012 S60, S80, and XC70. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced in response that they’re performing “extensive” research on features like City Safety. In the meantime, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement that he is “pleased to see automobile manufacturers moving forward with new technologies designed to improve safety.”
With City Safety performing largely as expected, Volvo has announced that they’ll be turning to avoiding other collisions. Next on their checklist are pedestrians and animals -- the XC60 is now available with a pedestrian detection system that uses cameras to detect up to 64 pedestrians and can, in an emergency, apply the brakes to avoid hitting them. Looking forward, Volvo says it is looking to tweak the system to help drivers avoid hitting animals like deer, moose, and cows that stray onto roads.
Let’s hope that the press demonstrations of the new Pedestrian and upcoming Animal systems go better than the first demos of City Safety.
Sources: IIHS, Volvo, NHTSA