IIHS Study: Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Need Improvement at Night


Over the past two years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has expanded its testing of automatic emergency braking systems. It has moved from simple car-to-car capability testing to car-to-pedestrian testing, as of 2019. It now examines how these systems work at night. In the end, they do a little worse than during the day.

This is important for two reasons. First, as the organization notes, pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise since 2009. And from 2020 to 2021, fatalities have increased by 13% to just over 7,300. Of these, 75 % occur at night. The second reason is that, as an IIHS study shows, automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection make a difference in reducing traffic collisions with pedestrians. Although the study also showed that the systems made no difference at night.

The reason for that, after that battery From testing, seems to be that the systems just aren’t particularly good at detecting pedestrians after the sun goes down. The test consisted of using adult mannequins crossing the street or walking parallel to the street. Child mannequins, used in daylight tests, were excluded due to very low death rates of child pedestrians at night (Good news, Elon! -BH.). Each situation was executed with the car at two speeds (12 and 25 mph for street crossings and 25 and 37 mph for parallel) and with the headlights on low and high. The organization tested 23 midsize sedans, SUVs and pickups. By daylight, 19 of them earned the two highest ratings of Superior or Advanced. At night it dropped to just 11, less than half. Four cars, the Chevy Malibu, Honda Pilot, Nissan Altima and Toyota Tacoma did poorly enough to receive no marks.

The most successful, superior, were the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Nissan Pathfinder, the Toyota Camry and the Toyota Highlander. The Pathfinder even managed to avoid a collision with a pedestrian in all situations. The advanced recipients were the Honda Accord, Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Frontier, Nissan Murano, Subaru Ascent and Subaru Outback.

The good news is that there are systems that work well. Also, once the IIHS starts testing safety features regularly, automakers tend to make improvements to make them work well. Examples of this include the organization’s low overlap frontal crash tests and headlight tests.

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