Toyota to begin offering low-cost safety features

The new RAV4 will be one of the first to include the low-cost safety systems.

Toyota has announced that it will reduce the prices of safety features that are currently present only in high-end vehicles, making them available for low-cost models. The Japanese manufacturer offers automatic braking systems for about $2,000, mostly for the cars of its luxury brand, Lexus. At the New York International Auto Show this month, the company introduced new models of its Toyota Avalon full-size sedan and RAV4 SUV that will be the first to feature the more affordable alternatives.

Toyota says that all of its North American vehicles will offer the bundles for about $300 to $635 by the end of 2017. The company has begun mass-producing the systems, which include features like collision warning and automatic braking. Analysts see this as part of a fast-growing trend that has manufacturers prioritizing safety as a selling point to gain market share.

"The automakers are competing on safety and that's good news for consumers," said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) spokesman Russ Rader to the Los Angeles Times. "Automatic braking systems are becoming more affordable and they're worth every penny. Even if the crash isn't prevented, these systems are reducing the severity of the impact."

According to IIHS research, rear-end collisions are down by 14 percent thanks to automatic braking. While luxury manufacturers like Acura and Mercedes-Benz have offered the systems for some time, more accessible brands like Subaru and Toyota are increasingly featuring them as well. The IIHS now requires their presence in order to award a 'Top Safety Pick+' rating.

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