Many automakers make a big deal of proprietary safety systems featuring driver assistance technologies such as pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. So it’s only natural they can be a deciding factor for buyers looking for the best family cars. On top of that, they’re a first glimpse at an autonomous driving future. But a new AAA study warns that such systems do not work when we need them most.
AAA assessed the systems on four midsize sedans: the Chevy Malibu, the Honda Accord, the Tesla Model 3, and the Toyota Camry. The company tested those cars in four different pedestrian scenarios, day and night, and at both 20 mph and 30 mph. The results were alarming.
Most pedestrian fatalities (75 percent) happen at night, which is when the safety systems were particularly ineffective. None of the systems detected or reacted to an adult pedestrian crossing the street at night.
The risk for death or severe injury in a collision increases dramatically for the pedestrian when the car is moving faster. It more than doubles from 20 mph (18 percent) to 30 mph (47 percent). Worryingly, AAA found that “in general, the systems were ineffective in all scenarios where the vehicle was traveling at 30 mph.”
One of AAA’s scenarios simulated a child darting out from between two cars. Even at the more favorable 20 mph speed, the four vehicles collided with the child 89 percent of the time.
AAA notes that manufacturers are “on the right path” with their systems. But they caution that significant gaps remain. Drivers should be alert, be extra vigilant at night, and consult both the dealer and vehicle owner’s manual to understand their cars’ safety technologies.