Automatic emergency braking has long been lauded for its help in reducing traffic deaths, which is precisely why 20 automakers – including Ford – recently completed their voluntary commitment to equip most of their vehicles with that same exact feature. However, these systems still have certain limitations – such as problems “seeing” obstacles like pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles at night, though testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that Ford’s AEB system tends to outperform its rivals in that regard. Still, there is certainly room for improvement, which has prompted the IIHS to call for improved standards and to consider testing at higher speeds, where AEB is less effective. Now, a new report from the IIHS has found another problem with these same systems.
The IIHS recently conducted two different studies, both of which came to the same conclusion – automatic emergency braking and front crash prevention systems aren’t as good at preventing collisions with large trucks and motorcycles as they are crashes with cars. After analyzing 160,000 crashes, IIHS discovered that these systems reduced rear-end crash rates with medium or heavy trucks by 38 percent and rear-end crash rates with motorcycles by 41 percent, compared with a 53 percent reduction in rear-end crash rates with other passenger vehicles. These results were confirmed by another study conducted by IIHS and other organizations as well.
Even more troubling, the IIHS notes that these types of collisions often involve fatalities as well. A medium or heavy truck or a motorcycle is struck by a passenger vehicle in about 43 percent of fatal rear-end crashes, even though another passenger vehicle is the struck vehicle in 97 percent of rear-end crashes overall. IIHS estimates that these systems have prevented an additional 5,500 crashes a year with medium or heavy trucks and another 500 crashes with motorcycles, but there’s certainly room for improvement.
“These reductions are impressive for all vehicle types, but the safety benefits could be even larger if front crash prevention systems were as good at mitigating and preventing crashes with big trucks and motorcycles as they are with cars,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president of research. “Motorcycles and large trucks present unique risks. Along with being hard for other drivers to see, motorcycles don’t have a steel frame surrounding and protecting the rider the way cars do. At the other end of the spectrum, large trucks are so massive that when a passenger vehicle hits one, it’s more likely to be fatal to the people inside the passenger vehicle. The height of large trucks can also result in dangerous underride crashes.”