Home » The Rivian R1T Outperformed America’s Best-Selling Trucks In Crash Tests Because Of its Headlights

The Rivian R1T Outperformed America’s Best-Selling Trucks In Crash Tests Because Of its Headlights

Rivian R1t Iihs Crash Test Topshot

Remember that rig the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety built to crash test big, beefy EV trucks and SUVs that weigh as much as a small apartment complex? Well, it put in the work hauling a 7,148-pound Rivian R1T down the runway toward a set of barriers in the name of safety. The results are now in for Silicon Valley’s electric truck of the moment. And in the words of Borat, “Great success!”

Yes, the Rivian R1T smashed it, earning the Institute’s highest rating of Top Safety Pick+, an impressive feat considering that the new Toyota Tundra is the only other truck to earn such a rating. But why is that? To find out, we’ll have to look at how this rating is assigned.

But first, a little explainer on what makes the R1T so different from most other pickup trucks. For starters, there’s the method of construction. If you crawl underneath a Ford F-150, a Chevrolet Silverado 1500, or a Ram 1500, you’ll see a body and a truck bed bolted separately to a ladder frame using a bunch of rubber isolators to take up slack and keep things quiet.

By contrast, the R1T starts with a welded perimeter frame without central crossmembers, then bolts it directly to a single body that incorporates a cab and bed without any isolators between body and frame. You can get a great look at Rivian’s architecture in this video by Munro Live.

In addition, the Rivian R1T is a whole lot heavier than a full-size half-ton truck, clocking in at almost 800 pounds heavier than a Ram TRX when equipped with quad motors. Nobody’s really made a truck like this before, which makes crash testing it all the more intriguing.

Back to what Top Safety Pick+ means. For starters, there’s the driver’s side moderate overlap front impact test, IIHS’ bread and butter. Without it, IIHS likely wouldn’t have built such a reputation for passive safety testing, as the moderate overlap test forced carmakers to change how their products were made. (Remember, the IIHS is an independent nonprofit organization funded by insurance companies; its tests are different from the “official” star-based ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)

After all, the previous industry standard of a full-width barrier impact isn’t the most realistic of tests and allows crash forces to be spread out across both front chassis rails. There’s just one problem with the moderate overlap test: Because the test has been around so long, virtually everything does well on it. The Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra all earn the top rating of Good in this test. So, nothing here to differentiate the R1T from the rest of the pack. Still, the Rivian’s stiff body structure is quite fascinating to watch bounce off of the barrier.

Alright, so what about the tough one, the small-overlap barrier test? This one involves only a quarter of a vehicle’s width contacting the barrier, putting immense pressure on vehicles’ A-pillars, footwell structures, and sills. Known for folding many cars from the last decade into cubes, surely this will separate the safe from the sketchy, right?

While the Rivian R1T showed some deformation through ripples in the roof, the front wheel broke away from the vehicle and a reasonably sound safety cage earned the truck the top mark of good.

On the flip side, the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab was barred from even a regular Top Safety Pick rating due to a marginal rating on the passenger-side small-overlap test. However, the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 both get top marks in small-overlap testing yet only receive a Top Safety Pick rating. What gives?

R1t Roof Crush Test

Perhaps we’ll find answers in side-impact testing. Or not, as both the Ram and the Ford also do well here. It’s the same deal for the roof crush test pictured above. The same goes for head restraint testing where a seat is mounted to a rig, as well as testing of available automatic emergency braking testing against cars and pedestrians.

So what the hell does the plus symbol actually denote? In fact, the only thing that differentiates a Top Safety Pick+ vehicle from a regular Top Safety Pick vehicle is decent headlights being standard, rather than optional. Good headlights are important, but that plus is doing some very heavy lifting here.

So, if you’re shopping for a new truck, take solace in knowing that the Ram 1500, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, and Rivian R1T all pack similar levels of passive safety and similarly-advanced automatic emergency braking according to IIHS testing. Get the right spec of the F-150 and Ram 1500, and you’ll have good headlights too. Still, kudos to Rivian for making a safe truck, especially considering it’s the marque’s first shot at a vehicle.

(Photo credits: IIHS)


Watch IIHS Slam An Old Ford F-150 Overloaded To 9,500 Pounds Into A Barrier In The Name Of EV Crash Testing

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25 Responses

  1. Good headlights are an overlooked safety feature. They make night driving at speed a lot safer. Deer pops out? If it can be seen it can be better avoided. Same with other night hazards.

    1. My experience with deer has been that the ones you hit aren’t the ones your headlights illuminate, it’s the stupid ones that run directly in front of (or into the side of) your car. Any modern headlight (yes, even the halogen ones) light up the road far enough in front to stop if there’s a deer.

      I care less about having obscenely bright headlights that just blind everyone else on the road and more about having smart headlights that steer with the car so you can see as you’re going around curves. That’s the killer visibility feature.

      1. If you put LED bulbs into the factory light housings, imma need you to go back and take them off.

        Aftermarket LEDs mostly blind other drivers while giving you the impression that they’re doing a good job while actually not functionally improving your night visibility. Save the $30 for a high-quality set of regular replacement bulbs.

        1. Absolutely, but it does annoy me less than cars that come from the factory set to blind! Tho if I’ve seen enough and am annoyed enough I will give them a quick flash of my xenons. They do probably just think “durrr my headlights are so awesome they thought my high beams were on” though.

          Wish more cars got ticketed for lighting atrocities. Off road only fog replacements (coughtoyotatacomacoughtoyota4runnercough), stupid headlights (poorly aimed or incorrectly bulbed), REAR FOG LIGHTS ON WHEN YOUR FRONTS SHOULDN’T EVEN BE ON!


          1. “They do probably just think “durrr my headlights are so awesome they thought my high beams were on” though.”

            I’ve seen people brag about being flashed by people thinking their highbeams were on, so I don’t think you’re getting the message across.

  2. I am fully on board with headlight quality being a significant factor in safety ratings, and I’m also on board with the idea that people who can’t afford the higher trim levels shouldn’t be stuck with shit headlights.

    Let’s see them do outward visibility next.

    1. I also wonder how the costing works out between LED and Halogen. I’m sure the LED are more expensive when they build in all of the sequential turn signals and stuff, but I find it hard to believe that a basic LED headlight is drastically cost prohibitive at any pricepoint. I upgraded to LED’s on my Tacoma for $485, yet most of the Tacoma’s I drive past either have the dim halogen lights or some ridiculous aftermarket thing going on.

    2. but did the excessively bright GM headlights help or hurt the ratings? And now that they are being recalled to dim them does that mean GM is even more bottom of the barrel?

    1. Same here. Saw a bunch in the midwest during a vacation over the summer which I kinda get considering how close they are to the factory, but I’ve started to see them here down in Florida which is interesting for some reason.

      1. I live in a relatively small city, and have seen at least 3 different Rivian trucks, and saw my first Lucid Air last night. Surprising, give the fact that 10 year old Buicks seem to be the most often spotted cars around this area.

  3. Let’s make this clear… IIHS doesn’t do these “in the name of safety”, they do this “in the name of lowering payouts and raising insurance rates”. They are the INSURANCE institute, funded by insurance companies, who are only concerned about their bottom line. They would rather you pay for extreme amounts of safety equipment on every vehicle instead of paying out if you get hurt. All done in a way to make sure it looks good on Dateline.
    I don’t disagree with them pushing safety forward, and they do, but let’s not pretend they are doing it for altruistic reasons.

  4. At this point with vehicle weights ballooning this far out of the norm I think it’s time IIHS factors weight into their safety ratings. The fact is that a vehicle as heavy as this Rivian puts all other cars on the road at risk. At 7148lbs, in a 40mph crash a Rivian would exert 1,116,188N of force on whatever it hits, which is a LOT. A car weighing 1 ton would only exert 325,094N of force, and in event of a crash with a Rivian the forces will be equivalent to the 1 ton car hitting a stationary object at 140mph. We should all be very scared of these excessively heavy vehicles and I think there should be a more rigorous driver’s test in order to drive such a heavy and dangerous vehicle.

    1. +1,000,000. Size and weight should subtract from vehicle’s safety ratings. It should be impossible for any vehicle above median weight to get five stars.

      If you think this thing is bad, you should see the Lightning. I wish more full size pickups were more reasonably sized like the Rivian is. There’s just no reason for the bulk. It makes them worse vehicles to live with. It makes the blind spots worse. It makes them less safe for everybody around them.

  5. After reading this article it occurs to me that one should try to hit other vehicles squarely rather than try to miss them. That also seems like the definition of a perverse incentive.

    1. You should probably hit fixed objects full on, but other vehicles you are probably best trying to miss, as they are a movable object and a lot of the energy would be dissipated by deflection and such. Right? Someone with a physics degree get in here…

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