AAA warns that pedestrian detection systems fail when needed most
Emergency braking systems in cars that are intended to detect, and stop for, pedestrians, don’t always work the way they're designed to. AAA found pedestrian detection systems often fail when needed, and the inconsistency worsens at night.
What is the emergency braking system in most vehicles actually designed to do?
Cars with these systems use cameras, radar and other sensors to detect people coming into the vehicle’s path. If the driver doesn’t react quickly enough, the system is supposed to brake the car itself to avoid the collision or slow down enough to reduce the severity of a crash, according to Consumer Reports.
Nearly 6,000 pedestrians are killed after getting hit by a car each year and 75 percent of the fatalities occur at night. According to AAA, that is when pedestrian detection systems fail completely.
Pedestrian fatalities prove how important the detection systems could be, but the technology, so far, has failed to reduce the danger. That highlights the need for engaged drivers behind the wheel.
How exactly did researchers discover this fatal flaw?
AAA’s testing was done on a closed course at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, using simulated pedestrian targets.
The four vehicles used — a 2019 Chevy Malibu, a 2019 Honda Accord, a 2019 Tesla Model 3 and a 2019 Toyota Camry — were outfitted with industry-standard pedestrian detection systems.
The tests involved the following scenarios:
- An adult crossing in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph and 30 mph during the day, and at 25 mph at night.
- A child darting out from between two parked cars in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph and 30 mph.
- A vehicle turning right onto an adjacent road with an adult crossing at the same time.
- Two adults standing along the side of the road with their backs to traffic, with a vehicle approaching at 20 mph and 30 mph.
Overall, the systems performed best when the adult was crossing in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph during the day. In this case, the systems avoided a collision 40 percent of the time.
At a speed of 30 mph, however, most systems failed to avoid a collision with the simulated pedestrian target.
Among the study’s other concerns:
- When encountering a child darting from between two cars, with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 89 percent of the time.
- In general, the systems were ineffective in all scenarios where the vehicle was traveling at 30 mph.
- At night, none of the systems detected or reacted to the adult pedestrian.
Why should drivers refrain from relying on this automatic braking technology?
The findings that show these pedestrian detection systems failing underscore that until the technology improves, drivers are urged to be alert behind the wheel.
Be aware of your surroundings and don't rely on pedestrian detection systems to prevent a crash. Use extra caution when driving at night, especially.
The risks of these systems failing when needed most means that pedestrians also must be diligent. Walkers should stay on sidewalks, use crosswalks, obey traffic signals, look both ways before crossing the street and not walk and text.
Contact David J. Glatthorn, a West Palm Beach car accident lawyer you can trust, for help with pedestrian accidents, and any other car, truck, or motorcycle accidents.