Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Designed To Protect Walkers Do Poor Job At Night

Only four of the 23 vehicles evaluated excelled in a new nighttime crash prevention test that assessed pedestrian automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems.

The results of the new tests, developed to address the high percentage of crashes that impact walkers that occur on dark roads and to encourage improvements, were released on Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry,

“As we expected, most of these pedestrian AEB systems don’t work very well in the dark,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement. “But it’s clear automakers can rise to this new challenge, as Ford, Nissan and Toyota each earn superior ratings for some models.”

Pedestrian crash deaths have soared nearly 80 % since a low point in 2009, according to federal estimates. The estimated 7,300 walkers killed in 2021 accounted for nearly a fifth of all traffic fatalities, and about three quarters of these deaths occurred at night, when research shows most pedestrian automatic emergency braking systems are less effective.

A study earlier this year conducted by the Insurance Institute found that AEB systems can prevent pedestrian crashes — but only in the daytime or on well-lit roads.

In the analysis of pedestrian crash prevention capabilities in nearly two dozen midsize cars, midsize SUVs and small pickups, vehicles were rated from best to worst: superior, advanced, basic or no credit. Only the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Camry, and the Toyota Highlander, all 2022 models, received the top rating of superior.

Seven vehicles — the Honda Accord, Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Frontier, Nissan Murano, Subaru Ascent and Subaru Outback — each earned advanced ratings. Eight earned basic scores: the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Ford Maverick, Ford Ranger, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport and Volkswagen Tiguan. The pedestrian AEB systems in the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Pilot, Nissan Altima and Toyota Tacoma didn’t perform well enough in the dark to earn any credit, according to the institute.

Many of the same models that came up short at night performed well in daytime conditions, researchers said.

The nighttime test included two common pedestrian crash scenarios, an adult crossing the road and an adult walking along the road at the edge of the travel lane. Each test was conducted at two speeds. The ambient illumination surrounding the test track was similar to the amount of light cast by a full moon. Scores are awarded based on the average speed reductions in five test runs.

Separate trials were conducted with the headlights on the high beam and low beam settings, and scores were adjusted if the vehicle was equipped with high beam assist — a feature that automatically switches on the high beams when no other vehicles are nearby.

Only the superior-rated Pathfinder avoided a collision with the pedestrian dummy in both test scenarios at all test speeds with both its low and high beams.

For more information about the tests and specific details about the vehicles evaluated, click here.

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