Eight 2014 models garnered top ratings from an auto safety watchdog thanks to one critical piece of technology: forward collision warning with automatic braking.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested cars equipped with collision warning and automatic braking systems. It gave a "superior" rating to cars that both warned the driver of a potential collision and applied the automatic brakes to significantly slow the cars.
The autos include seven luxury vehicles and one large mainstream model. Notably, half of the vehicles that earned the Superior rating are built by General Motors -- which has been struggling to salvage its reputation in the wake of an ignition switch scandal -- more than in any single year in its history.
GM also had more vehicles on the IIHS Superior list than any other manufacturer, including the Cadillac CTS and XTS models, the Buick Regal and the Chevrolet Impala. BMW had two of its products recognized, the 5-Series and the X5 Sport Activity Vehicle. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Hyundai Genesis rounded out the list.
All eight of the top-rated models have forward collision warning with auto-braking. That is a step up from earlier models that could detect a potential crash and warn the driver. The newer systems also can apply the brakes if a driver doesn’t respond quickly enough.
“We know that this technology is helping drivers avoid crashes,” said David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer of the insurance industry’s automotive research arm. “The advantage of auto-brake is that even in cases where a crash can’t be avoided entirely, the system will reduce speed. Reducing speed reduces the amount of damage that occurs to both the striking and struck cars and reduces injuries to people in those cars.”
The technology is standard on a small but growing number of products, mostly in the luxury class. That includes all Acura, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo models. And it is now available on about 20 percent of all 2014 vehicles, at least as an option, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More from The Detroit Bureau: