AAA testing shows pedestrian detection sometimes doesn’t work

New research from AAA reveals that automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection perform inconsistently, and proved to be completely ineffective at night.

“These pedestrian detection systems, a lot of them that included automatic braking, they can alert drivers and assist in lessening the likelihood or severity of a crash, whether that’s with another vehicle, or more importantly, with a pedestrian,” said Shawn Steward with AAA Kansas. “All those systems are not quite proven.”

The systems were also challenged by real-world situations, like a vehicle turning right into the path of an adult. AAA’s testing found that in this simulated scenario, the systems did not react at all, colliding with the adult pedestrian target every time.

“We found inconsistencies and frankly, lack of performance of these systems during the day, at night and in a range of different situations,” said Steward. “It’s technology that can be useful, but it’s important that drivers not completely rely on these systems at this point. They should only serve as a backup and not a replacement for an engaged driver.”

Between 2007 and 2017 in Kansas, 4,583 pedestrians were injured and 267 were killed in vehicle crashes, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

“We simulated a lot of different situations, during the day, during the night, at different speeds of the vehicle,” said Steward. “We tested with test dummies simulating adults crossing in front of a vehicle. We simulated a child darting out between two parked cars. There were limitations in these pedestrian detection systems in all those scenarios.”

Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that pedestrians are at greater risk for severe injury or death the faster a car is traveling at the time of impact.