Today’s vehicles are being released with more and more safety features. While they have been praised by some, they have also been brought under heavy scrutiny by others. Now, after AAA has released a study focused on automatic braking systems — one of the most important components of any vehicle — critics have even more to discuss.
Recently, AAA has partnered with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center to determine just how safe today’s vehicles actually are. The automotive agency studied the performance of four midsize sedans with automatic braking safety features that detected pedestrians. The vehicles tested were the 2019 Chevy Malibu, the 2019 Honda Accord, the 2019 Tesla Model 3, and the 2019 Toyota Camry.
Focusing on those automatic pedestrian features, AAA wanted to learn how effective they actually are at keeping pedestrians safe. The results were disheartening.
The study found that the systems are most effective when a pedestrian crosses in front of a vehicle that is traveling at 20 miles per hour, and when it is daylight outside. Under these circumstances, the systems detected a pedestrian 40 percent of the time. However, when the vehicle’s speed was increased to 30 miles per hour, most of the systems failed to detect a pedestrian at all.
Other troubling findings from the study include:
- Child pedestrians that ran out in front of a vehicle were struck 89 percent of the time
- After making a right-hand turn, all pedestrian detection systems hit the adult pedestrians
- When the vehicles approached two adults standing at the side of the road, the vehicles hit the pedestrians 80 percent of the time
- When the vehicles traveled at 30 miles per hour or more, the pedestrian detection systems were not effective at all
- When tested under nighttime conditions, the systems were also rendered ineffective
All pedestrian targets used in the study were simulated, so no one was injured during testing.
The Importance of Remaining Cautious
One of the biggest criticisms of pedestrian detection systems and other automatic safety features is that they cause drivers to become complacent. When motorists believe the car is essentially driving itself, there is a temptation for them to take their focus off of the road and put more faith than they should in the automated systems. This recent study shows just how dangerous that can be.
“Motorists must remain cautious and focused on the road ahead of them at all times,” says personal injury attorney John J. Sheehan of the Law Office of John J. Sheeehan, LLC. “When they rely too much on automated systems, whether it is one particular safety feature or a completely autonomous car, it becomes extremely dangerous. That danger is there for both the driver and anyone around that vehicle. Safety features are great, but drivers must still use their heads when behind the wheel.”
One of the most troubling aspects of the study is that the automated pedestrian detection systems only work when pedestrians are at the least amount of risk anyway. Most pedestrian accidents — 75 percent, in fact — occur at night. Unfortunately, the latest study shows that pedestrian detection systems do not prevent these crashes from happening at all.
Drivers should also remember that part of being cautious is understanding exactly how the automatic systems of their vehicle work. Drivers sometimes only hear their vehicle is equipped with these features and do not attempt to learn more about them. However, these systems can only work when they are used properly. Sometimes, the driver must turn them on, while other times drivers may not be aware that signals they are hearing are actually the automated system alerting them to danger. When drivers do not take this level of care, it becomes extremely dangerous for everyone on the roads.
Although drivers have a responsibility to remain cautious, so too, do pedestrians. It is essential to always watch for approaching vehicles, even when the pedestrian has the right-of-way. It is just as important to use a crosswalk whenever possible, not to dart out in front of vehicles, and to teach children how to walk safely when vehicles are nearby.
Pedestrians and motorists have always had the responsibility to remain cautious and try to keep everyone safe. The latest study from AAA shows just how much this holds true, even with the latest safety features that are coming out in vehicles every day.