Cars with high-tech emergency brakes still hit child-size dummies in 89% of street-crossing tests, a new study finds

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesPedestrians cross the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 14th Street, one of Manhattan’s most dangerous crosswalks for pedestrians.
  • Pedestrian-detection systems do little to protect the people they detect, new data from AAA has found.
  • Researchers found that crashes were avoided less than half of the time in tests on four new vehicles.
  • For children, the results were even more dire, with 89% of crashes occurring despite the features.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

High-tech safety features are almost ubiquitous in new cars, but new research has found that when it’s most needed, the technology may not do much to save lives.

In tests by the roadside-assistance nonprofit AAA, automatic braking prevented a collision with an adult less than half of the time. For children, a collision was avoided just 11% of the time at 20 mph.

For its tests, AAA used four 2019-model cars: a Chevrolet Malibu, a Honda Accord, a Tesla Model 3, and a Toyota Camry. All the cars had their manufacturers’ specific automatic-braking tech.

The sedans were then driven on closed streets at a speedway in California, where researchers drove the cars at pedestrian-size dummies that were moving across the road as a person might walk. The brake pedal wasn’t pushed until after the car made contact with the fake pedestrian, with researchers monitoring warning lights as well as any speed reduction brought by automatic braking.

The systems performed even worse during nighttime when there’s less light. The researchers did note, however, that most vehicles’ manufacturers warned that the systems might not function as well during these times.

There was some good news, however.

When tested on adult-size dummies, the report said, “each test vehicle provided visual notification of an impending collision during each test run conducted at 20 mph” and successfully avoided the collision 40% of the time, while reducing impact speed by about 6 mph.

But when coming around a corner, “none of the test vehicles mitigated the impact speed during any of the five test runs.”

“Never rely on pedestrian detection systems to avoid a collision,” AAA told drivers in its report. “These systems serve as a backup rather than a primary means of collision avoidance.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.