Pedestrian avoidance tech on cars often doesn’t work at higher speeds

By: Lisa Coxon on October 11, 2019

Vehicles with pedestrian avoidance technology and automatic emergency braking (AEB) aren’t efficient at detecting and avoiding pedestrians at night, while making right-hand turns, and at high speeds, a new AAA study reveals.

According to Consumer Reports, the study tested four 2019 sedans: the Honda Accord, the Chevrolet Malibu, the Tesla Model 3, and the Toyota Camry.

All four vehicles came equipped with AEB and pedestrian detection technology, which are used in conjunction with one another to automatically detect a pedestrian and slow the car down in order to avoid a crash. These technologies rely on cameras, sensors and radar to do their job. According to Consumer Reports, pedestrian detection systems are standard on roughly one-third of new vehicles.

Some auto insurance companies even offer a discount if drivers have AEB installed. For instance, Aviva offers a 15% discount on premiums to drivers with AEB in their vehicles. The discount is applied either upon renewal or when they buy a new policy.

But the AAA study presented some difficult findings with respect to these systems, namely that  they had a difficult time and in many cases, outright failed to find pedestrians at night — especially small children — while driving at speeds of 48 km/h or higher.

According to Consumer Reports, if the test vehicle was travelling at 32 km/h and encountered a child that had “darted into traffic from in between two cars,” it hit the child 89% of the time. At a higher speed of 48 km/h, none of the test vehicles avoided a crash.

In fact, even during the daytime, the technology was faulty. When the test cars were driving at speeds of 32 km/h in daylight, they hit an adult pedestrian 60% of the time. And none of them avoided hitting a pedestrian that was crossing the street when the vehicle was making a right-hand turn at 24 km/h.

While these technologies might be a step in the right direction, they still have a ways to go in order to be effective.

“These systems have the potential to save lives, and consumers should look for the system on their next vehicle,” Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA, told Consumer Reports. “However, they should drive the car like the system is not there. It is not a replacement for an engaged driver."