Most important auto tech of all: safety. 2017’s safest cars according to IIHS and a quick look back at 1959

Do you nostalgically cling to the belief that the old tons-of-steel behemoths of the 1950s and 1960s were safer than todays smaller, nimbler, faster-stopping cars? The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety did an anniversary crash test to abolish any lingering doubts.

Engineered Design InsiderModern Malibu hits a 1959 MalibuOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
IIHS crash tests a 1959 Malibu with its iconic tons of steel against a modern Malibu equipped with safety tech. Guess who wins?

 

In the tests, as seen in the video, the crash test dummy in the 1959 Malibu, despite a weight in steel advantage, clearly was crushed. The modern Malibu survived. Although this is a slightly older video, it demonstrates the important advances we’ve made in auto safety technology:

 

 

Safety tech — the most important technology in a car

Zero to Sixty in 2.2 seconds would be amazing. Electric vehicle range of 500 kilometers would revolutionize the industry. But the tech that’s the least sexy is the one that really counts. Auto safety.

 

Engineered Design InsiderCrash test dummy in the 1959 Malibu diesOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
Crash test dummy in the 1959 Malibu is crushed despite tons of steel.
Engineered Design InsiderCrash test dummy in the modern malibu hits the airbagOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
Modern Malibu crash test dummy survives thanks to crumple zones and airbags.

 

Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the top safety picks in different categories, based on crashworthiness tests: small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, front crash prevention, and head restraints. To qualify as a “pick” the vehicle must pass all five of the tests.

 

Engineered Design Insider2017 Chevrolet Volt a top safety pick in small carOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
2017 Chevrolet Volt was a safety plus pick of IIHS.

 

The engineering required to make an automobile safe in crashes at high speed is impressive and complex. Everything from avoidance semi-autonomous features, to crumple zones to air bag technologies must work perfectly.

No car is safe in a tractor trailer drive-under crash. The IIHS is recommending all truck trailers be equipped with crash cages. Watch this frightening crash video:

 

 

Size matters in a crash

In a crash, size still matters, despite engineering. In avoidance, a smaller car might have an advantage in safety (manoeuvring and stopping), but in an actual crash, the bigger the car the better.

 

Engineered Design Insider2017 Mercedes Benz GLE Classa top safety pick IIHSOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
Two cars of the same rating from IIHS, both safety plus, may still fare better in real life crashes based on size. The Mercedes GLE was rating a top 11 overall. Many SUVs made the top 11 overall list.

 

Two cars might pass the top safety pick rating, but an SUV or larger car will always have an advantage over a smaller car. Despite the complete list (below) by size category, the overall top 11 safest cars, as rated by a report from the IIHS are:

  • Audi Q7 SUV
  • Volkswagen Tiguan 2-wheel drive SUV
  • Toyota Tacoma Double cap long bed 4-wheel drive pickup
  • Mazda CX-9 2-wheel drive SUV
  • Audi A6 all-wheel drive
  • Jeep Cherokee all-wheel
  • BMW 535 i and is
  • BMW 535 xi
  • Lexus RX 350 2-wheel drive SUV
  • Lexus CT 200h
  • Mercedes Benz M-class SUV (GLE class)

However, for avoiding the crash to begin with, small and nimble cars from the IIHS top safety pick list might be a good choice.

According to IIHS: ” Size and weight influence occupant protection in serious crashes. Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford more protection than smaller, lighter ones. Thus, a small car that’s a TOP SAFETY PICK+ or TOP SAFETY PICK doesn’t necessarily afford more protection than a bigger car that doesn’t earn the award.”

 

Engineered Design Insider2017 Toyota Prius V a safety pick pick for IIHSOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
2017 Toyota Prius V was a safety plus pick.

 

For 2017, here are the top picks in each category. + indicates Top Safety Pick PLUS, which is somewhat better than the Top Safety Pick.

“To qualify for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn good ratings in five crashworthiness tests — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints — as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

To qualify for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests, an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and an acceptable or good headlight rating.” *

 

Engineered Design InsiderMini car top safety car rating IIHSOil Gas Automotive Aerospace Industry Magazine
2017 Mini Cooper was a top safety pick in mini cars.

 

 

  • Source IIHS website

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