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Luxury marques earn top self-braking marks

Crunch time: BMW’s 5 Series was one of 24 cars tested and earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest score for how well its crash-avoidance technology worked.

BMW, Benz, and range-topping Hyundai all earn top crash avoidance scores

30 May 2014

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Korean brand Hyundai have all earned perfect scores for self-braking systems fitted to their cars, the latest assessment of the crash-avoidance technology by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows.

The US-based IIHS released its latest round of tests for the emerging technology that can either avoid or minimise a rear-end shunt, with the BMW 5 Series sedan and X5 mid-size SUV, the Hyundai Genesis large car due on sale in Australia in coming months, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible range all recording perfect scores – although the IIHS notes they were fitted with optional safety equipment.

The IIHS noted that 21 of the 24 cars and SUVs tested so far had earned an advanced or higher rating, including several car-makers that have improved their technology to earn a higher score.

However, while some luxury models stood out enough to gain a “superior” ranking, others have been given a less positive ranking of “basic”, including the BMW 3 Series fitted with a collision warning system that is optional for Australian vehicles, and the Infiniti Q70 which is sold in Australia without the technology.

"We are already seeing improvements from automakers since the initial launch of our ratings last September," IIHS chief research officer David Zuby said.

"BMW and Lexus, for example, have added more braking capability to their systems, which has paid off in higher ratings." The IIHS tests the autonomous braking systems at either 20km/h – a speed where most makers say the technology can avoid a crash – or 40km/h, where most systems are expected to reduce the severity of a crash, but where some can still avoid it.

"We know that this technology is helping drivers avoid crashes," Mr Zuby said. "The advantage of autobrake is that even in cases where a crash can't be avoided entirely, the system will reduce speed.

Reducing the speed reduces the amount of damage that occurs to both the striking and struck cars and reduces injuries to people in those cars." The IIHS said the test results for BMW varied between different models because the car-maker had several versions of the technology in use.

“The X5 and 5 series earn superior ratings when equipped with a system that uses both a camera and radar,” it said.

“When the X5, 5 series and 3 series are equipped with an optional camera-only collision mitigation system, they are rated advanced for front crash prevention.

“The 2 series luxury coupe also earns an advanced rating.” BMW’s 3 Series was rated as basic because it only braked if sensors first detected the car in front moving before it stopped.

Meanwhile, the IIHS said Lexus had enhanced its radar-based systems to provide more braking capability, garnering an advanced rating for the GS mid-size sedan and the IS small sedan ranges.

“Likewise, Toyota made changes to systems on the Highlander (sold in Australia as the Kluger) mid-size SUV and Prius small car to earn advanced ratings in results published earlier,” it said.

Toyota does not fit either non-luxury models sold in Australia with the technology.

According to the IIHS, most of the front crash prevention systems tested had to be bought as part of an optional package.

The IIHS says it will soon change its new-car buyer recommendation system to require at least an “advanced” rating for collision avoidance systems before being nominated as a sensible safety pick.

Australia’s crash safety watchdog, the Australiasian New Car Assessment Program, is yet to develop a standardised test for the new technology.

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