AAA: Vehicle pedestrian detection systems are inconsistent, ineffective at night

Many new cars have technology built in to lessen the likelihood or severity of a vehicle or pedestrian crash, but new research from AAA finds that pedestrian detection systems may not work all the time in all scenarios.

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The AAA study showed that automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection are inconsistent and prove to be ineffective at night.

AAA evaluated the performance of four mid-sized sedans equipped with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and found that the systems avoided a collision 40 percent of the time, they were ineffective when the vehicle was traveling at 30 mph and they didn’t detect or react to an adult pedestrian.

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The new vehicle technology can alert drivers and assist in crashes, but until the systems are proven consistent, AAA recommends drivers to:

  • Be alert of their immediate surroundings. Don’t rely on pedestrian detection systems to prevent a crash, this technology should only serve as a backup and not a replacement for an engaged driver.
  • Read the owner’s manual to understand what safety systems the vehicle is equipped with. Before leaving the lot, ask the dealer to explain how these systems work, including what safety system alerts sound and look like and what triggers their activation.
  • Use extra caution when driving at night since this is the riskiest time for pedestrians and where the systems struggle most. AAA research found that headlights, even in new condition, don’t provide the amount of light needed for drivers to react to something or someone in the roadway.
  • It’s a drivers responsibility to yield to pedestrians, but those traveling by foot should be diligent as well. Pedestrians should use caution by staying on sidewalks and using crosswalks as often as possible, always obey traffic signals, look both ways before crossing the street and do not walk and text. 

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