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New safety testing to target crash avoidance systems

If you were to scan the car accidents headlines here in New Jersey over the last month, chances are very good that you'd see all manner of auto wrecks (head-on-collisions, side-impact wrecks, rear-end collisions, rollover accidents, etc.) caused by a multitude of factors (speeding, alcohol, running a stop sign, etc.).

While carmakers have made remarkable strides in crafting technology designed to keep vehicle occupants safe in these types of crashes over the last decade, they're now taking the momentous step of crafting technology designed to keep these types of crashes from ever occurring.

For example, many carmakers are now offering everything from automated braking and lane-departure warnings to cross-traffic alert systems and adaptive cruise control. While the ideas behind these expensive safety systems are certainly impressive, both safety experts and the average consumers alike are still wondering whether they really can perform as marketed.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety -- the nonprofit organization "dedicated to reducing the losses from crashes on the nation's roads" -- is now looking to provide consumers with answers as to whether these systems can truly keep them out of harm's way.

Interestingly, IIHS officials have indicated that accomplishing this feat won't be easy and won't be cheap. As to the latter point, the organization has devoted over $30 million to the construction of a new test track specifically designed to test the overall effectiveness of crash-prevention features using fully autonomous robots and programmed robotic drivers.

As for the former point, IIHS officials understand that the type of predictive analysis testing they will be performing is much different than the standard crash tests for which they are otherwise famous.

"For every one of the things that we have asked automakers to do to get a Top Safety Pick, we have real data behind it that says: 'You will be at lower risk of dying in a crash in this vehicle," said the IIHS head of research. "When we start getting to predictive ratings, we just become salesmen. And there's plenty of those out there."

Still, the agency is undeterred and plans to issue recommendations only for those safety systems that can prove their worth on the new test track.

It should be interesting to see if this technology becomes more common over the next few years and what results this testing yields. In the meantime, those who have been injured in car accidents caused by negligent drivers should understand that they can seek the justice they deserve.

Source: Auto News, "IIHS, regulators to grade crash avoidance gear," Gabe Nelson, August 19, 2013

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