IIHS: Rear automatic braking is 'standout feature' in 2020 crash avoidance tech roundup

Zac Palmer
·2 min read

The IIHS just finished a new study on rear automatic braking systems and found that they’re highly effective at reducing minor crashes and reducing collision/damage claims. A previous study done by the IIHS' Highway Loss Data Institute from 2017 (using data from 2014-15 GM vehicles) found mounting evidence for the usefulness of rear automatic braking. Now, the IIHS has large sums of data from 2015-18 Subaru vehicles equipped with rear auto braking systems, and the agency is labeling it “the standout feature in HLDI’s annual compilation of its research on the impact of crash avoidance technologies.”

Those are heady words considering the huge number of driver assistance systems available on new cars today. Rear automatic emergency braking systems function similar to front collision prevention systems. Vehicles make use of sensors or radar to detect objects, then automatically apply the brakes to avoid hitting said object if a driver gets too close. The data show that vehicles equipped with rear auto braking “had 28% fewer property damage liability claims and 10% fewer collision claims.”

“We haven’t seen that kind of reduction in claims for vehicle and other property damage from any other advanced driver assistance system,” says HLDI Senior Vice President Matt Moore.

People backing into things accounts for a sizable portion of all insurance claims. The IIHS says that claims with rear damage of less than $2,000 (read: low-speed incidents that rear auto braking could potentially prevent) make up 17% of all collision claims. Financially speaking, the IIHS estimates damages from these types of crashes totaled over $8 billion from 2010-17. Unlike forward automatic emergency braking, there are fewer instances where rear auto braking can reduce bodily injury claims. Obviously, that’s due to the speed and the circumstances at which these collisions take place. You’re much more likely to hit a pedestrian driving forward at speed than you are backing up slowly. Still, there’s every chance the rear system could come in handy one day backing out of a parking spot somewhere with people milling about.

The IIHS analyzed the effectiveness of rear cameras and rear parking sensors as a comparison to the auto braking, but found both were significantly less effective at reducing collision claims. Rear cameras and rear parking sensors both reduced property damage claims by 5% respectively. That’s a far cry from the 28% effectiveness of rear auto braking, but the data do show that they’re doing some good at reducing accidents.

Rear automatic braking is still not as widely available as front auto braking, but is slowly spreading around the automotive industry. With repeated studies showing how effective it is, there’s a good chance we see more and more vehicles make it a standard safety feature.


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