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Cooley On Cars
Smarter Driver: Understanding forward-collision technologyThere are a lot of technologies in cars that try to keep you from hitting things. Perhaps the one that does that best most bluntly is forward-collision technology.
Now forward-collision technology sprang from the loins of adaptive cruise technology which uses a device like this, either radar or laser sensor looking out in the traffic ahead of you to maintain a set distance to that traffic, not just a set speed, and it does that by operating the accelerator and the brake. Okay. I'm on the freeway in this Infiniti QX80. I'm set to 59 on adaptive cruise but traffic ahead of me is starting to slow down and sure enough the accelerator comes off, the brakes go on a bit, maintains my gap and now traffic opens up. We're heading back up to target speed of 59 and target gap. It really works and it's kind of eerie. Forward collision just takes that same experience we have on the road and divvies it up into 2 flavors. First there's a warning-only version. That's a car that's gonna detect you're closing on something too fast and give you beeps or flashing lights or typically both. Then there's the kind that intercedes, the prevention flavor of technology that will do all the above and will jump on the brakes all the way to a full stop. Now for those of you who are averse to having any machine drive for you know that in production today I've never seen a car that doesn't let you defeat the forward-collision technology, but it wouldn't surprise me if in the near future it becomes a mandated on, kind of like the anti-lock brakes. It turns out forward-collision technology in all of its flavors actually works. Some are better than others. A recent study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found about a 14 percent reduction of accident claims among cars that have the kind of forward-collision tech that gets on the brakes for you, quite a bit less improvement in those that only warn. And now for the first time the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is giving ratings to cars based on their forward-collision tech, not just on the other more passive safety technologies we're familiar with. The good news is a lot of cars are offering this technology now and getting really good scores. The bad news is an awful lot of cars are getting fair to mediocre scores, so forward-collision tech is not the same car to car. Now what's in the future? The next big evolution of this forward-collision technology can be exemplified in let's say Cadillac's coming Super Cruise where the car will read what's ahead, hit the brakes, use the accelerator, steer, come into a complete stop if need be, and resume acceleration to all of that in city speed traffic. That's getting awfully close to a self-driving car. So if you're looking at a car that has forward-collision tech, bear these 3 shopping tips in mind. First of all know that the kind of forward-collision tech that can hit the brakes for you is more effective than that that just gives you a warning beep. Secondly look at the ratings on cars that have this tech. They don't all operate the same and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just begun to grade them. Finally look at a package that may also roll in blind spot and lane departure tech along with forward-collision. It might be a better value and it certainly should provide you a little more security.