Front crash prevention systems, integral in reducing vehicular accidents, currently show less efficacy in preventing crashes with large trucks and motorcycles compared to their performance with standard passenger vehicles, according to recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
These systems, primarily comprising forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB), are designed to alert drivers of imminent rear-end crashes and take automatic action if necessary. However, discrepancies in their effectiveness have been noted. While these systems have decreased rear-end crash rates with medium or heavy trucks by 38% and with motorcycles by 41%, they have been more effective with other passenger vehicles, achieving a 53% reduction.
Jessica Cicchino, IIHS Vice President of Research, emphasized that “the safety benefits could be even larger if front crash prevention systems were as good at mitigating and preventing crashes with big trucks and motorcycles as they are with cars.” Enhancing these systems could potentially prevent an additional 5,500 crashes annually with medium or heavy trucks and 500 with motorcycles.
The need for improvement is underscored by the fact that large trucks and motorcycles are involved in about 43% of fatal rear-end crashes. Motorcycles lack the protective steel frame of cars, and the massive size of large trucks often results in more fatal outcomes for passenger vehicle occupants.
The study, conducted by Cicchino and IIHS Senior Research Scientist David Kidd, analyzed police-reported rear-end crash rates between 2017 and 2021 in 18 U.S. states. They found that AEB and forward collision warning systems were associated with a significant reduction in rear-end crashes involving another passenger vehicle but less so with large trucks and motorcycles.
The evolution of these systems has been significant. Ten years ago, few vehicles were equipped with forward collision warning or AEB. Today, almost every new passenger vehicle features these systems, largely due to a voluntary manufacturer commitment encouraged by IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
To address these challenges, IIHS is launching a new vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention evaluation. This will include a variety of targets representing different vehicle types, ensuring comprehensive performance. The first updated ratings are expected to be published early next year.
This initiative is crucial, as Kidd points out, “Motorcycles are smaller and narrower than cars, making them more difficult for camera- and radar-based systems to identify, especially at higher speeds.” The study found that while the test vehicles consistently warned of impending collisions with standard passenger car targets, they were less reliable when approaching larger vehicles or motorcycle targets.
By diversifying the range of targets in front crash prevention testing, IIHS aims to enhance the real-world performance of these systems, ultimately contributing to greater road safety for all vehicle types.