Forward Collision Warning Systems

Forward Collision Warning Systems Ratings

Forward Collision WarningWhat Is It?
Forward Collision Warning (FCW) systems alert you when your vehicle is about to collide with another vehicle some distance ahead of yours. The type of warning that the systems use will vary between vehicles; some use a flashing light, while others use an alarm sound or vibration. FCW systems should not be confused with Forward Collision Mitigation systems. Warning systems simply warn the driver when a collision is likely, but do not automatically apply the brakes.

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Why Did FCW Earn a 4-Open and 2-Solid Star Rating for Rear-End Collision Prevention?
Field testing has estimated that rear-end collisions are reduced by about 10% with FCW, and insurance data shows a 10-15% reduction.

Why Did FCW Earn a 3-Open and 1-Solid Star Overall Safety Benefit Rating?

Overall benefit estimates for potential fatality reduction of 17%, injury reduction of 21%, and crash rate reduction of 25% have been documented. This translates into a 3-Open Star rating. Real-world insurance data have documented a 5-7% reduction in claims for FCW-equipped vehicles, yielding 1 Solid Star.

Why Would I Use This Technology?

Forward collision crashes, in which the front of a vehicle collides with another vehicle on the road, are very common, accounting for up to a quarter of all crashes. FCW systems detect when the vehicle is about to collide with another object, and alert the driver to encourage corrective action. The primary benefit of this technology is that it alerts drivers to dangerous situations and allows the driver to take action quickly.

What Do Drivers Think?

A recent survey showed that only about 24% of respondents were aware of FCW technology. Of those, 60% said the technology was easy to use, and 47% considered it to be useful. A study that asked about drivers’ satisfaction with FCW found that drivers were moderately satisfied with it.

How Well Does It Work?
Studies of real cars have shown that FCW systems can reduce rear-end collisions by about 10%. Insurance studies have also shown that owners of cars equipped with FCW have lower claim rates than owners who do not have FCW.

Who Benefits Most?
FCW is most commonly available on luxury and higher-end vehicles, but that is expected to change in the next few years. Since all drivers need some help monitoring their surroundings, all types of drivers are expected to benefit.

In What Situations Doesn’t It Work?

FCW systems can be camera-based or radar-based. Camera systems can be obstructed by build-ups of ice or snow, are less accurate at night, and can sometimes be “blinded” by sunrise and sunset glare. Radar-based systems are less susceptible to time-of-day issues, but can be affected by snow and ice.

Mobility Significance

FCW would be beneficial for drivers who have become distracted, drowsy, or otherwise inattentive, allowing them to react more quickly to dangerous situations they might have missed. However, as with other vehicle safety technologies, FCW is designed to supplement, not replace, good driving habits, and should never be used as a substitution for safe and focused driving.

Not All Systems Are Alike

FCW systems may be camera-based or radar-based, and have different weaknesses as a result (see “In What Situations Doesn’t It Work?”). Some systems use a flashing light to indicate a possible crash, while others play an alarming sound. Most importantly, some systems only detect possible collisions with moving vehicles, whereas others work with both moving and stationary vehicles. Some FCW systems can also “prepare” the brake to make braking by the driver more responsive when it occurs.

Different Names, Same Idea

FCW can be found under a number of different names, including:
•    Crash Imminent Warning
•    Pre-crash Warning

How Can I Learn More?

Full references to all studies quoted above can be found in the official AAA Foundation report, "Evaluating Technologies Relevant to the Enhancement of Driver Safety." The project's Fact Sheet provides more detail on the rating system itself, and the criteria used to assign solid and open stars, both for Overall and Scenario Specific ratings.