As our major cities become ever more congested and our suburban commuter routes groan under the weight of bleary-eyed commuters twice a day, shunt or rear-end collisions are one of the most common accident types today.
More common in heavily-congested rush-hour traffic, rear end shunts are usually caused by drivers following too closely to the car in front and failing to notice the car in front is slowing down, leaving braking too late and causing the inevitable physics demonstration that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. It also has the unpleasant side effect of causing damage to both vehicles and usually, a third-party whiplash claim against the driver of the late-braking vehicle.
In the future, autonomous driving promises to end this type of collision completely, with ever-alert onboard computer systems keeping each car a sensible distance from one another and vehicle-to-vehicle networks ensuring that cars know to react and brake in an emergency situation long before a human would.
We may not have self-driving cars yet, but the latest generation of Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems — a step along the road to full vehicle autonomy — are helping to cut rear-end collisions and associated third party insurance claims by an impressive amount.
Rear-end shunts are common during the busy, congested rush-hour.
That’s according to Volkswagen, which says that data from the insurance industry via Thatcham Research Centre shows that rear-end collision third-party injury claims against seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf drivers are 45 percent lower than drivers of other small family cars in the same group thanks to the advanced driver assistance technologies fitted to the latest-incarnation of the classic hatchback.
In Europe all but the entry-level Volkswagen Golf S come with Front Assist, Emergency City Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control as standard, something that Volkswagen says has helped it to “democratise safety’ by bringing advanced safety technologies usually reserved for high-end luxury models to the mainstream marketplace.
Fitted with front-mounted radar sensors, the latest-generation Volkswagen Golf constantly checks the distance between it and the car in front, ensuring there’s always enough distance to stop in the event of an emergency. If it detects an impending collision, it first preconditions its braking system to prepare it for sudden braking while alerting the driver of the impending collision. If the driver does not provide enough force on the brake pedal or does not react at all, the car brakes automatically to avoid a collision entirely or at worst minimise the impact speed.
In a similar way, Emergency City Braking — which takes over from Front Assist at speeds below 18 mph — warns the driver if they are getting too close to the car in front and operates to slow the car to avoid low-speed shunts.
In the case of adaptive cruise control, drivers can set their desired cruising speed, but the car will automatically reduce its speed if there’s someone slower in front to ensure a safe distance is always maintained. When the road ahead is clear, the car will accelerate back to the desired cruising speed.
Since the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf launched in January 2013, many more automakers have begun offering these three technologies on their cars, dropping the number of serious rear-end collisions by a dramatic amount.
More automakers than ever before are including autonomous braking systems and adaptive cruise control on their cars.
“These findings are based on the equivalent of more than 7,000 Mk VII Golf models insured for a full 12 months on the road, and come from claims data from our insurance members. When we saw figures based on an initial small sample, we were surprised, as they exceeded our own performance testing,” said Matthew Avery, Director of Safety at Thatcham Research. “However the figures held up, even after almost doubling the sample group, and have therefore given us a glimpse of what safety on UK roads could look like in the future.”
As part of its work, Thatcham Research tests and accredits AEB systems for various insurance industry bodies as well as Euro NCAP — the European crash test agency tasked with crash-testing every new model of car to go on sale in Europe.
While it notes that most AEB systems are most effective at speeds below 25 mph, more than 75 percent of collisions occur at speeds between 0 and 25 mph. Indeed, AEB systems are believed to reduce the occurrences of low-speed collisions completely by a fifth. As its own data shows, even if collisions occur, the risk of severe injury is even less.
“If the performance of these latest generation auto-emergency braking systems translates to the real world as expected, then it stands to reason that we should see third party personal injury claims continuing to fall across the board.,” Avery added.
Do you have autonomous braking on your vehicle? Has it saved you from a crash? Or are you still worried about trusting your car to do the work for you?
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