You might know that your car can stop itself if it detects that you’re about to drive into a stationary object — or even a pedestrian in more advanced systems. But did you know that many new cars can automatically hit the brakes when backing up if they detect another car or object?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — the Virginia-based non-profit that crash tests dozens of cars a year — says that these systems are proving their worth. The systems use radar and sometimes camera sensors to predict an impending impact, and they can apply the brakes even before the driver thinks to do so. More advanced systems use radar to look around cars parked perpendicularly in a parking lot, too, to “see” what drivers and backup cameras may not even be able to pick up.
For its study, the IIHS compared late-model Subarus with rear automatic emergency braking to similar General Motors cars without the feature and found a big reduction in property damage and collision claims in cars with the tech. The IIHS notes that rear-impact damages tend not to result in many injuries since such impacts typically happen at low parking lot speeds, but they can result in hefty damage to costly bumpers, sheet metal, and trim.
Around 17 percent of all insurance claims between 2010 and 2017 involved a rear-end collision accounting for as much as $2,000 in damages. In the grand scheme of car insurance claims, $2,000 is quite low, though few drivers would object to dealing with the hassle of repairing a car after an impact.
The IIHS’ study was, of course, self-serving since the agency is primarily funded by the insurance industry. Still, saving insurers money helps keep car insurance rates lower, not to mention the need to repair your car — and perhaps the one you backed into.