Study: Automated safety features significantly reduce the risk of vehicle crashes

September 10, 2019

Those automated safety features may just be worth it after all. 

A study released by GM on Monday found that safety technology such as automatic emergency braking reduced rear-end collisions by 46 percent and reverse automatic braking reduced back-out crashes by 81 percent. 

“We can make substantial gains in safety through deployment of advanced driver assistance systems such as forward and rear emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and others,” Carol Flannagan, research associate professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, said in a statement. “In addition, we found that the more automated the system, the greater the benefits.” 

The benefits are reduced traffic fatalities and vehicle damage due to the implementation of a broad suite of safety technology, which are commonly called advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). General Motors partnered with the UMTRI to conduct a widespread study on the effectiveness of those systems in the real world by comparing police-reported crash data across 10 states. GM provided VIN access for 3.8 million vehicles from model years 2013 through 2017 to distinguish which vehicles had ADAS and which didn’t in the extensive crash data. 

Vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking had nearly half as many rear-end crashes as those vehicles without the equipment. Since the technology is relatively new, studies like the UMTRI's have attempted to gauge the real-world effectiveness of the systems.

“Although systems may be tested in analysis, in simulation, on test tracks, and on public roads prior to production release, crash data remain fundamental for understanding achieved safety benefits in the field,” Flannagan said in the report.

Active lane control with lane departure warnings reduced lane-changing-related crashes by 20 percent, but just the lane change alert and blind-spot monitors reduced crashes by 26 percent. 

The most significant decrease in crashes was while going in reverse, which makes sense if you’ve ever watched parallel parking by braille in cities. When equipped with automatic braking in reverse, as well as rear cross traffic alert and rearview camera, the number of fender-benders was reduced 81 percent. This reduction also applies to more serious types of rear crashes, such as backing out of a driveway and hitting a pedestrian on a sidewalk.  

GM says these technologies are critical to “a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” no matter how much the technology annoys drivers

Even though GM has been at the forefront of safety technology with telematics such as OnStar, the General has trailed competitors such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan and others in offering some ADAS as standard across the model line. In Chevy models, Driver Confidence packages with ADAS can range from $495 to $2,165.  

Even though the study was specific to GM vehicles, the non-profit IIHS found similar results in a study published in June 2019. Automatic emergency braking reducing front-to-rear crashes by 50 percent, and rear automatic braking with parking sensors and rearview camera reducing crashes by 78 percent. 

The IIHS also found that those vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems cost more to repair in the event of a crash than those that do not have it. Sensors and other components are located in crash damage zones such as bumpers, so after a crash you won’t just have to replace the inexpensive bumper but also the sensors housed within the bumper. Vehicles with forward collision warning without automatic braking, for instance, had a $104 increase in the average claim payment compared to vehicles without it. 

That’s a small price to pay to avoid a crash.

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