Auto-braking systems a first step in keeping pedestrians safe


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Evolving technology meant to keep pedestrians safer doesn’t work the same in all vehicles.

When a pedestrian leaves the sidewalk, they become vulnerable to a driver who is not paying attention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says annual pedestrian fatalities have increased 53 percent since reaching a low point in 2009.

More than 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2018.

During 2013-17, the two deadliest days of the year for pedestrians on average were Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

To help remedy that problem, automakers have voluntarily agreed to make automatic emergency braking for pedestrians standard in all vehicles by 2022 – but, tests show those systems still need work.

Of the 16 midsize cars tested by the IIHS, some failed, some were OK and some worked great.

The Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Outback and Volvo S60 have systems that earned superior ratings from the IIHS because they avoided collisions or slowed substantially in track tests.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima earned no credit because they failed to slow significantly in multiple scenarios. 

Here’s the breakdown of how each vehicle did in the tests.

The Institute’s president explains why there was so much variance in the testing.

“They have different sensors,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “Some use cameras, some use radar and they all have algorithms behind those sensors the process the data.”

That leads to results like where the Ford Fusion failed to detect any pedestrians while vehicles like the Audi A-4 scored a superior rating.

None of the IIHS tests were conducted at night when these systems fail more often.

The Institute concentrated on testing how systems detected adults crossing the streets, pedestrians on the road and children darting out from in-between parked cars.

The two perpendicular tests are conducted were at 12 and 25 miles per hour, while the test simulating a pedestrian walking in a parallel path to the vehicle is conducted at 25 and 37 mph.

In each of these tests, the system has 1 or 2 seconds to stop the car to avoid hitting the pedestrian dummy.

This is not the end of the technology’s evolution.

“It’s a first step,” said Harkey. ”All of the systems can be improved and will evolve over time to include nighttime conditions.”

When a vehicle hits a pedestrian speed plays a big factor.

At school zone speed of 20 mph, your chances of surviving a collision is 90–95 percent.

As speed increases, survivability drops dramatically.

At 40 mph, your chance of surviving a crash as a pedestrian drops to 5 percent.

But, even if a current system doesn’t completely stop a vehicle, Harkey says it’s still better than nothing for pedestrians.

“Even if a vehicle cannot stop, if you can reduce the speed at which a collision occurs, you’ve increased the survivability rate for a pedestrian quite a bit,” he said.

The systems also aren’t meant to replace your decision making —they are meant to assist drivers in an emergency.

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