From next year, it will be even more difficult to qualify for an award, as vehicles will have to perform well in two new tests that reflect the latest real dangers for motorists and other road users. It’s by design that testing becomes increasingly difficult, according to IIHS President David Harkey.
“One of the main reasons vehicles have continued to become safer in the more than 25 years since the [IIHS] started our scoring program is that we have never been shy about raising the bar,” Harkey said in a written statement. “The high number of Top Safety Pick+ winners shows it’s time to push for additional changes.”
Wallace agrees. “By making the standards more demanding over time, the IIHS and Consumer Reports push automakers to continually improve vehicle safety, and we give well-deserved praise to those who step up,” he says. “It’s a proven way to move the market.”
For 2023, vehicles will need to achieve a good score in a more severe side crash test to be a Top Safety Pick+, and at least an Acceptable score to be a Top Safety Pick. In the first round of IIHS testing, only one out of 20 small SUVs achieved this score. The new test is designed to replicate a higher-speed impact with a larger vehicle, such as a modern SUV or pickup truck, both of which are more common on US roads. It uses a sled that weighs 880 pounds more than the current one and hits 37 mph, a noticeable increase from 31 mph.
The other test assesses the night performance of automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems with pedestrian detection. While the vast majority of new vehicles are equipped with AEB systems designed to automatically brake for pedestrians, tests, including by the IIHS, show that they can struggle to detect moving pedestrians at night, when 73 % of accidents involving pedestrians occur. For 2023, vehicles will need to achieve an advanced or higher rating to qualify as Top Safety Pick+.
“We’ve seen a lot more cars in recent years come with city-speed AEB and pedestrian detection systems as standard, and that’s great news for safety,” Wallace says. “We will now have more robust, independent testing to ensure that these systems are effective in more challenging scenarios and continue to improve over time.”