Pedestrian AEB Works, but Not When It’s Dark

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Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announcement

ARLINGTON, Va. — Automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems that can detect pedestrians are preventing pedestrian crashes — but only in the daytime or on well-lit roads.

In all light conditions, crash rates for pedestrian crashes of all severities were 27 percent lower for vehicles equipped with pedestrian AEB than for unequipped vehicles, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found. Injury crash rates were 30 percent lower. However, when the researchers looked only at pedestrian crashes that occurred at night on roads without streetlights, there was no difference in crash risk for vehicles with and without pedestrian AEB.

“This is the first real-world study of pedestrian AEB to cover a broad range of manufacturers, and it proves the technology is eliminating crashes,” says Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president of research and the study’s author. “Unfortunately, it also shows these systems are much less effective in the dark, where three-quarters of fatal pedestrian crashes happen.”

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Already, IIHS has spurred manufacturers to improve their front crash prevention systems and make pedestrian detection available on more vehicles by introducing ratings for pedestrian AEB. When IIHS made an advanced or superior rating for vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention a requirement for the TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards in 2019, the technology was only available on 3 out of 5 vehicles the Institute tested, and only 1 in 5 earned the highest rating of superior. Two years later, pedestrian AEB is available on nearly 9 out of 10 model year 2021 vehicles, and nearly half of the systems tested earn superior ratings.

To address the shortcomings identified by Cicchino’s research, IIHS is now developing a nighttime test, with plans to publish the first official nighttime pedestrian crash prevention ratings later this year.

“The daylight test has helped drive the adoption of this technology,” says David Aylor, manager of active safety testing at IIHS. “But the goal of our ratings is always to address as many real-world injuries and fatalities as possible — and that means we need to test these systems at night.”

Examining the impact of pedestrian AEB

Pedestrian crash deaths have risen 51 percent since 2009, and the 6,205 pedestrians killed in 2019 accounted for nearly a fifth of all traffic fatalities. That same year, around 76,000 more pedestrians sustained nonfatal injuries in crashes with motor vehicles.

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Pedestrian AEB systems warn drivers when they’re at risk of hitting a pedestrian and apply the brakes if necessary to avoid or mitigate a crash. To determine how big an impact the technology is having, Cicchino looked at nearly 1,500 police-reported crashes involving a wide variety of 2017-2020 model-year vehicles from different manufacturers. Accounting for the quality of vehicle headlights as well as driver age, gender and other demographic factors, she compared pedestrian crash rates for identical vehicles with and without pedestrian AEB. Finally, she examined the impact of the technology by crash severity, light condition, speed limit, and whether the vehicle was turning.

To view the entire announcement, click HERE.

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