University of Michigan vehicle safety study graphic

Here are some of the GM safety systems included in a University of Michigan study, with the share of crashes they were shown to reduce.

It may not be the ideal time for General Motors Co. to see a bump in demand for its products, with the company’s vehicle production recently disrupted by a United Auto Workers strike, but a University of Michigan study shows GM safety technology is reducing crashes.

The company partnered with the university’s Transportation Research Institute to see how its engineers were doing in their quest to help move the industry into a world of zero crashes.

To better understand the effectiveness of some of the active safety, driver assistance and advanced headlight features, it looked at the kind of systems built into 3.7 million vehicles in 20 GM models from 2013 to 2017.

The study used police report crash databases from 10 states to evaluate 15 systems in those vehicles.

By comparing crash instances of vehicles with the active safety features and without them, the study was able to demonstrate effects of GM features designed to prevent or mitigate crashes.

Nearly all of the systems evaluated in the study are available on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups made at the company’s Fort Wayne Assembly plant, Raymond Kiefer, a GM safety technical fellow, said in an email.

Some of the study’s more important findings included:

• Automatic emergency braking (or forward automatic braking) with forward collision alert reduced rear-end striking crashes by 46%.

• Lane keep assist with lane departure warning reduced lane departure-related crashes by 20%.

• Lane change alert with side blind zone alert reduced lane change crashes by 26%.

• Rear-vision camera alone, rear park assist functionality, rear cross traffic alert (which nearly always includes the two previous backing features) and reverse automatic braking (which includes all the previous backing features) produced, respectively, an estimated 21%, 38%, 52%, and 81% reduction in backing crashes.

• IntelliBeam and high-intensity discharge headlight features provided 35% and 21% reductions, respectively, in nighttime pedestrian/bicyclist/animal crashes, with a 49% reduction when offered together.

Of the systems mentioned, Kiefer said reverse automatic braking and high-intensity discharge headlights were the only ones not yet on Sierras and Silverados.

“The vast majority of the features evaluated are available across a wide range of vehicles types,” he said.

In terms of the number of crashes prevented, Kiefer said he considered the standout systems to be reverse automatic braking and automatic emergency braking, or forward automatic braking.

“Features that offer some level of automated vehicle control under certain conditions — such as forward and reverse automatic braking — showed the highest reductions in crashes and were found to be more effective than their ‘alert only’ counterparts,” he said.

“GM is well on its way to meeting our commitment to the voluntary industry safety agreement that would lead to making forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking standard on virtually all new light duty vehicles by the end of 2022,” Kiefer said.

“We believe these technologies are important, and we’ll continue to introduce new active safety technologies, and expand their availability, across a broad spectrum of vehicle sizes and segments in the coming years.”

For example, GM plans to make automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking and forward collision alert standard on eight 2020 models sold in the United States, Kiefer said.

Those models will be the GMC Terrain, the Chevrolet Equinox, the Buick Encore GX and the Cadillac CT5, CT6, XT4, XT5 and XT6.

“New vehicle-based safety technologies are being developed and improved at a very fast pace,” Carol Flannagan, a research associate professor with the institute and director of the university’s Center for Management of Information for Safe and Sustainable Transportation, said in an email.

“In this study, there were several systems such as pedestrian automated emergency braking that we could not evaluate because there just weren’t enough out in the field,” she said.

“This type of work needs to be updated regularly with more vehicles and more crash data to be able to evaluate the newest systems as early as possible.”

Flannagan considers the study important because it shows manufacturers can help improve safety with the technology they build into vehicles such as forward and rear emergency braking and rear cross-traffic alert, she said.

Even systems that are not designed to prevent or minimize higher-frequency types of crashes can be very important, she said.

“Basically, each feature addresses a different type of crash and while some crashes are more common, others cause more injury,” Flannagan said.

“For example, automatic emergency braking has high effectiveness for a very common crash type (rear-ends), so it will probably prevent the largest total number of crashes,” she said.

“However, other less-common crash types, such as pedestrian crashes, cause worse injuries on average. Thus, a safety system that hardly ever gets used might be more likely to save a life in the long run.”

Kiefer considered the research to be groundbreaking in its broad range of vehicles and in the number of active safety and headlight systems it studied, he said.

For more information on the report, go to http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/150660.

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