Among the most-welcome safety features available in many new vehicles are automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems that can detect pedestrians ahead and warn the driver. If the driver doesn’t apply the brakes, the system does.
Unlike traditional AEB systems that are designed to detect when a car is getting too close to another vehicle ahead of it, they can also recognize the presence of a pedestrian, cyclist or someone in a wheelchair or on a scooter.
Without streetlights, some systems aren’t effective in the dark
A recently published study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that pedestrian AEB systems reduce the number of pedestrian crashes by about a third in daylight (including dusk and dawn) and even at night if there are streetlights. However, researchers found no difference in the rate of nighttime pedestrian crashes between vehicles with and without pedestrian AEB when the roads weren’t lit.
That’s particularly troubling because, as the study’s author notes, 75% of fatal pedestrian crashes occur at night. Another IIHS official involved in the research says, “Some systems worked much better than others in the dark, but there was no single type of technology that got better results.”
The IIHS also noted that there was no difference in crash rates with and without pedestrian AEB on roads with higher speed limits (at or above 50 miles per hour) when a vehicle was making a turn.
Some newer systems are more effective
The good news is that some newer pedestrian AEB systems that weren’t reflected in the crash data rely on radar only to detect people ahead rather than technology in the headlights. That means their effectiveness doesn’t depend on atmospheric light. IIHS is including testing of pedestrian AEB systems in all types of light in its overall ratings for new vehicles.
Some 90% of 2021 model vehicles now have some type of pedestrian AEB system, and many slightly older models do as well, as this study shows. However, neither pedestrians nor drivers should rely on them to ensure safety. If you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent driver, it’s crucial to seek the compensation you deserve.