New tests results for front-end crash protection

New crash tests are fueling the push for computer technology that lets computers take over when you're about to crash your car. At the same time, more car manufacturers are jumping on the crash prevention bandwagon.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just finished another battery of crash tests to see which manufacturers are offering front crash protection that really protects. It's the second round of tests to see how the early warning and auto-braking systems work at speeds of up to 25 mph.

"Cars that have these systems have 14 percent fewer crashes with other vehicles than cars that don't have these systems," said IIHS's Chief Research Officer David Zuby. "We are already seeing improvements from automakers since the initial launch of our ratings last September."

Top performers in the latest tests include the BMW 5 Series, the Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes E Class, and the Buick Regal. And experts note two encouraging trends: manufacturers are starting to offer automatic braking systems in more moderately- priced models, and the quality of the front crash protection is getting better.

This year, 21 of the 24 vehicles tested rated "Advanced" or "Superior," compared to only a fraction of the 70 vehicles that received high ratings last September.

Safety advocates hope releasing the tests results will encourage consumers to ask for the safety technology when they car shop- and that will manufacturers to make the technology more widely available. Since front end crash protection systems are widely varied and largely unregulated, some advocates are also pushing for new regulations so that all of the safety systems will meet the same federal standards.