Cars to get 'anti-crash' technologySystems could reduce accident casualties

13 February 2008

Mercedes S class

Some new cars are being fitted with new technology which could make low-speed crashes a thing of the past.

Three new systems have been unveiled which experts say could prevent more than 125,000 injuries each year.

Thatcham, the motor insurance research centre, has been putting the cutting-edge technologies to the test - and we’ve been along to find out more.

It says they will lessen - and in some cases prevent - low-speed shunts and collisions, which make up 75% of all motor accidents.

The systems are:

Volvo City Safety

This system is currently available on the XC70, S80 and V70 models (for £1,300). It will also be fitted to the Volvo XC60 off-roader when it goes on sale from November.

The system is active at up to 20mph and uses a form of laser radar mounted on top of the windscreen.

It responds if the vehicle in front has stopped or is moving closer to the laser.

If a collision is imminent, the system applies the brakes and cuts the throttle. If the car is travelling below 10mph it should prevent the collision entirely and at a speed of up to 20mph will reduce the impact by half.

We think it could help prevent rear shunts on approaches to roundabouts, especially, when the driver’s attention is often split between glancing to the right and looking at the car in front.

Mercedes Distronic Plus

This system is currently available on some S-class models (for £1,475).

It uses two radars linked to the car’s cruise control to maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front.

It provides a continual calculation of the distance between the vehicle in front and the speed differential between vehicles, and will brake accordingly.

While it normally won't bring the car to a complete stop, it can do so in low-speed ‘trickling traffic’ situations.

Honda CMBS

Honda’s Collision Mitigation Braking System is currently available on the Honda CR-V off-roader (for around £2,000).

It is a radar system that again calculates the distance and the speed differential with the vehicle in front.

Should this become out of kilter the driver receives visual and audible warnings before brakes are progressively activated. Seat belts are also tightened to alert the driver of an impending problem and lessen any resulting injuries.

Our view

Which?’s George Marshall-Thornhill tried the systems himself at Thatcham, and said: ‘The Volvo system seems the most impressive in many ways. It’s the most likely to bring the car to a halt before you hit the car or obstacle in front - although only at low speed.

The Volvo system seems the most impressive

‘At present, these devices are often optional, and expensive, but in ten years they will probably be widespread.

‘One worry is that with costly sensors at the front of the car - often in the grille - repair costs can rocket if you do have a crash. Thatcham estimates that fixing or replacing such sensors could cost between £1,000 and £4,4000 - so you'd better hope the system keeps you out of trouble in the first place.’