Pedestrian Detection Systems Don’t Work When Needed Most

Study finds safety systems fail at night when the majority of pedestrian-vehicle fatalities occur.

New research from AAA reveals that vehicle technology designed to stop cars to avoid pedestrian crashes is inconsistent in most situations and completely ineffective at night when 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur.

Pedestrian Crash Data

On average, a pedestrian is killed every 88 minutes in traffic crashes in the United States, totaling nearly 6,000 people annually. In Ohio, 132 pedestrians died in traffic crashes last year, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. That’s almost 5% higher than the five-year average (2014-2018).

Pedestrian crashes account for 16% of all traffic deaths nationally and 12% in Ohio, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“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. “But, our research found that current systems are far from perfect and still require an engaged driver behind the wheel.”

Evaluating New Technology

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA evaluated the performance of four midsize sedans equipped with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection to determine the effectiveness of these systems.

Key Findings

Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that pedestrians are at higher risk for severe injury or death the faster the car is traveling at the time of impact. AAA’s latest study found that speed impacted system performance as well, with results varying between testing performed at 20 mph and 30 mph.

Overall, the pedestrian detection systems performed best in the instance of an adult crossing in front of a vehicle, traveling at 20 mph during the day. In this case, the systems avoided a collision 40% of the time. But, at the higher speed of 30 mph, most systems failed to prevent an accident with the simulated pedestrian target. The other scenarios proved to be more challenging for the systems:

  • When encountering a child darting between two cars, with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 89% of the time.
  • Immediately following a right-hand turn, all of the test vehicles collided with the adult pedestrian.
  • When approaching two adults standing alongside the road, where the vehicle was traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 80% 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.

“The rise in pedestrian deaths is a major concern and automakers are on the right path with the intent of these systems,” said Brannon. “Our goal with this testing is to identify where the gaps exist to help educate consumers and share these findings with manufacturers to work to improve their functionality.”

More Pedestrian Detection Facts and Research Methodology

Read more and access the full research report in the AAA Newsroom.

It is a driver’s responsibility to yield to pedestrians, but those traveling by foot should be diligent as well. Another recent report indicates that the number of red light running fatalities is on the rise. See our post Red Light Running Deaths Hit 10 Year High for more insight.