9 out of 11 small SUVs do well in tests of pedestrian-detection systems

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested the effectiveness of pedestrian detection systems in 11 small SUVs, with most of the vehicles performing well, to show the potential of the feature in preventing accidents.

Automotive safety advocates and government regulators are struggling to address the growing numbers of pedestrian fatalities, which has increased by 45 percent since its lowest point of 4,109 deaths in 2009. By 2017,  that number was up to 5,977 deaths.

Pedestrian detection systems are being considered as an important countermeasure to the issue, with research also going into their usage in self-driving cars. The technology uses forward-facing cameras that are mounted near the rearview mirror, as well as radar sensors in the front grille, to continuously scan the road and horizon for objects on the vehicle’s path. Algorithms will classify if the detected object is a pedestrian, and will determine if a collision is imminent. If so, the system will alert the driver and apply the brakes at a speed that is much faster than a human’s reaction time.

The systems act to slow down the vehicles once they detect a pedestrian, and the rate of that slowdown is crucial, according to IIHS’ manager of active safety testing, David Aylor.

“The more speed you’re able to scrub off, the more likely a pedestrian is to survive the impact,” Aylor says. The systems react faster than drivers because “the technology is always paying attention to the road and never gets distracted or drowsy.”

On paper, the technology will help reduce pedestrian accidents. The IIHS, to make sure that pedestrian detection systems work as advertised, carried out tests on a total of 11 small SUVs with the feature. The tests simulated three common pedestrian crash scenarios: an adult entering the street from the right side, a child running into the street from behind two parked cars, and an adult walking on the edge of the road, with his back turned away from traffic.

The results were mostly positive, with nine of the 2018-2019 SUV models performing well. Four SUVs earned the highest rating of Superior, namely the 2018-19 Honda CR-V, 2019 Subaru Forester, 2019 Toyota RAV4 and 2019 Volvo XC40, followed by five SUVs that earned an Advanced rating: the 2019 Chevrolet Equinox, 2018-19 Hyundai Kona, 2019 Kia Sportage, 2018-2019 Mazda CX-5 and 2019 Nissan Rogue.

The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander, meanwhile, received a Basic rating, as its pedestrian detection system lagged behind the other SUVs. The BMW X1 received no credit in testing, as its system failed to brake in one scenario and had minimal to no speed reductions in the other scenarios.


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