Guide to Forward Collision Warning

How FCW helps drivers avoid crashes

illustration of car from overhead with lines in front of it detecting the truck ahead on the road Illustration: John Ritter

Forward collision warning (FCW) systems act like an ever-vigilant guardian angel, watching for potential trouble. They provide visual, audible, and/or tactile alerts to warn a driver of an impending collision with a car or an object directly in its forward path. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data show that FCW reduces rear-end impacts by 27 percent. 

Our members told us the same: A 2018 Subaru Forester owner wrote that FCW “literally saved me from an accident.” The driver of a 2018 Toyota RAV4 thanked FCW for preventing crashes when they “were distracted or a car stopped suddenly.”

There are two kinds of FCW: 

Forward Collision Warning (FCW): Detects a potential collision with a vehicle ahead and alerts the driver.

FCW With Pedestrian Detection (FCW-Ped): Detects a potential collision with a pedestrian in front of the vehicle and alerts the driver to their presence.

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Although FCW will not automatically stop a car, the feature often works in concert with automatic emergency braking (AEB), which will automatically hit the brakes if the driver does not respond in time.

In our most recent survey, we asked CR members to rate their experiences with the advanced safety and driver assistance systems on their model-year 2017 to 2022 cars. Respondents answered questions about their satisfaction with the systems. The survey covered about 47,000 vehicles.

Forward Collision Warning (FCW)

OVERALL SATISFACTION

56%

Source: Consumer Reports' 2021 Advanced Safety Systems Survey

What to Look for in Forward Collision Warning

If you are buying a car—especially if it’s a used model—check to make sure that it has both FCW and AEB. Some automakers use similar names for both systems, and that can be confusing. 

In addition, some systems let drivers adjust the timing of FCW to early, standard, or late. If you get too many warnings—and you’re sure you’re not tailgating other drivers—look at your owner’s manual to see if you can make an adjustment.

CR’s take: Automakers have committed to making FCW and AEB standard in new cars beginning Sept. 1, 2022. But a handful of models still lack them as standard equipment, according to CR’s official tracking of these two important safety features. CR believes these systems should come with all trim levels, given their ability to protect and save lives. CR awards extra credit to a model’s Overall Score if it has systems that can also operate at highway speeds and detect pedestrians as standard equipment.

Brand Names for FCW

CR, AAA, J.D. Power, and the National Safety Council have agreed on standardized, specific names for individual safety systems in order to reduce confusion and improve consumer understanding of what they do. Still, manufacturers often use their own names for these systems. These are some of the names that automakers use or have used for FCW and packages that contain FCW.

Acura: Forward collision warning, AcuraWatch
Alfa Romeo: Forward collision warning, Forward collision warning plus
Audi: Pre Sense front, Pre Sense city
BMW: Frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, Collision warning with city braking function
Buick: Forward collision alert
Cadillac: Forward collision alert
Chevrolet: Forward collision alert
Chrysler: Full speed forward collision warning plus, Full speed forward collision warning with active braking
Fiat: Full speed forward collision warning with active braking
Ford: Forward collision warning with brake support, Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking (AEB), Ford Co-Pilot360
Genesis: Forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection
GMC: Low speed front automatic braking, Forward collision alert
Honda: Forward collision warning/Honda Sensing
Hyundai: Forward Collision-avoidance Assist, Forward collision-avoidance assist w/pedestrian detection
Infiniti: Forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, Predictive forward collision warning
Jeep: Full speed forward collision warning with active braking
Kia: Forward collision avoidance (FCA) with pedestrian detection, Forward collision warning (FCW)
Lexus: Pre-collision system, Lexus safety system+2.0, Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
Lincoln: Forward collision warning, Lincoln Co-Pilot360
Mazda: Forward obstruction warning, Smart city brake support
Mercedes-Benz: Pre-safe brake with pedestrian recognition, Active braking assist
Mini: Frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation
Mitsubishi: Forward collision mitigation system
Nissan: Intelligent forward collision warning, Automatic emergency braking (AEB), Intelligent forward collision warning
Porsche: Adaptive cruise control with Porsche active safe (PAS), Warn and Brake Assist
Subaru: Pre-collision braking—EyeSight
Toyota: Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, Toyota Safety Sense (S, P, 2.0, and 2.5)
Volkswagen: Front Assist, Front Assist with Pedestrian Monitoring
Volvo: City Safety


Head shot photo of CRO Cars CIA editor Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Despite my love for quirky, old European sedans like the Renault Medallion, it's my passion to help others find a safe, reliable car that still puts a smile on their face—even if they're stuck in traffic. When I'm not behind the wheel or the keyboard, you can find me exploring a new city on foot or planning my next trip.