Automatic emergency braking systems in vehicles are supposed to provide an added measure of safety in the event an obstacle is suddenly encountered, but new research from AAA should give drivers some pause. A study conducted by AAA revealed that automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection perform inconsistently, and proved to be completely ineffective at night. This is particularly disconcerting as 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur after dark.
The study found that automatic braking systems were challenged by real-world situations, such as vehicle turning right into the path of an adult. During testing, AAA found that in this simulated scenario, the systems collided with the adult pedestrian target every time.
According to AAA, nearly 6,000 pedestrians lose their lives each year, accounting for 16% of all traffic deaths, a percentage that has steadily grown since 2010.
“Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise, proving how important the safety impact of these systems could be when further developed,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations, in a statement. “But our research found that current systems are far from perfect and still require an engaged driver behind the wheel.”
Vehicle speed was also a factor. Previously, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that pedestrians are at greater risk for severe injury or death the faster a car is traveling at the time of impact. For example, a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph has an 18% risk of severe injury or death, but that risk markedly Increases to 47% if the speed increases to 30 mph. AAA’s latest study found that speed impacted system performance as well, with results varying between testing performed at 20 mph and 30 mph.
AAA conducted primary research in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center in Los Angeles, California. Track testing was conducted on closed surface streets on the grounds of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The tests were conducted on four mid-sized sedans outfitted with industry-standard instrumentation, sensors and cameras to capture vehicle dynamics, position data and visual notifications from the pedestrian detection system. Three simulated pedestrian targets were used, including two dynamic models and each target was outfitted with industry-standard instrumentation to time movement as well as receive position, speed and acceleration from the dynamic target.