The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested pedestrian automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems at night to address the high percentage of pedestrian crashes that occur on dark roads. Four of the first 23 midsize cars, midsize SUVs and small pickups tested received the highest rating of “excellent”, but more than half received a base score or received no credit.
“As we expected, most of these AEB pedestrian systems don’t perform well in the dark,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “But it’s clear that automakers can rise to this new challenge as Ford, Nissan and Toyota are getting excellent ratings for some models.”
Ford Mustang Mach-E, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Camry and Toyota Highlander get top marks. Seven more cars – Honda Accord, Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Frontier, Nissan Murano, Subaru Ascent and Subaru Outback – receive extended ratings. Eight others receive base points. These are Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Ford Maverick, Ford Ranger, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport and Volkswagen Tiguan. The AEB pedestrian systems in the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Pilot, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Tacoma don’t work well enough in the dark to warrant recognition.
In daylight testing, 19 of those 23 cars received either Superior or Advanced ratings.
“It’s disappointing that so many midsize SUVs and small pickups perform poorly in night tests because studies show these types of vehicles are more dangerous for pedestrians,” Harkey said.
In 2019, the IIHS introduced the Vehicle-Pedestrian Daily Rating, and in 2020, a higher or higher rating became a requirement for TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards. Today, this feature is available in nearly nine of the 10 new IIHS-approved models. evaluates, and half of the systems tested receive excellent ratings in daylight conditions.
The number of pedestrian casualties continues to rise. Federal estimates for 2021 show that pedestrian deaths have risen nearly 80 percent since reaching their lowest point in 2009. The estimated 7,300 pedestrian deaths in 2021 accounted for almost a fifth of all road traffic accidents.
Three-quarters of these deaths occur at night, when studies show that most pedestrian AEB systems are less effective. A recent IIHS study found that the technology has reduced pedestrian accidents by more than a quarter for equipped vehicles. However, there was no difference in crash risk for equipped and non-equipped vehicles at night on unlit roads. Research tests conducted as part of the development of the nighttime assessment also showed a significant decrease in performance in dark environments.
This pattern is clearly visible in the first night ratings.
“Eight of the 12 vehicles that scored or failed in the night test scored excellent or improved in the daylight test,” said David Eilor, vice president of active safety at the IIHS, who developed the new program.
The night test includes two common crash scenarios involving a pedestrian: an adult crossing the road and an adult walking on the road at the edge of the lane. Ambient lighting surrounding the test track must remain below 1 lux – about the same amount of light cast by a full moon – throughout the evaluation.
The score does not include the third scenario used in the daylight test, which simulates a child running into the road from behind two parked cars. The scenario is not part of the night assessment because few child walkers are killed at night.
The crossover test is done at 12 and 25 mph and the parallel test is done at 25 and 37 mph. Points are awarded on the basis of the average speed reduction in five repeated test runs on dry pavement. Separate tests are conducted with the high and low beam headlights on, and scores are adjusted if the vehicle is equipped with High Beam Assist, a feature that automatically turns on high beams when no other vehicles are nearby.
“The idea is to weight the score according to the beam setting that is most likely to be on during a potential accident,” Eulor said.
For systems that use cameras, the ratings only apply to vehicles equipped with the specific headlight systems used for the rating, as headlight quality can also affect performance.
An advanced or superior rating in the night test will be a requirement for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award in 2023.
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Only the higher-rated Pathfinder avoided the pedestrian dummy in both test scenarios at all test speeds with both low and high beams.
The Camry, Highlander, and Mustang Mach-E, which also received top marks, avoided the dummy in the intersection scenario at both test speeds and in the 25 mph parallel low and high beam test. All three cars slowed down significantly with high and low beam assistance in a parallel test at 37 mph, softening the blow.
None of the top-rated cars were able to avoid collisions in the parallel 37 mph scenario. With high beams, most avoided a pedestrian in the 12 and 25 mph crossing scenarios and in the 25 mph parallel test. However, most of them struggled in these scenarios when using low beams.
While some base-rated vehicles avoided the pedestrian dummy at lower test speeds, none avoided the intersection or parallel traffic scenario at higher speeds. Vehicles that were not credited for their AEB pedestrian systems did not slow down at all or barely slow down before colliding with the dummy in several test scenarios in both low and high beams.
Night ratings of automatic emergency braking systems for pedestrians
Pedestrian Collision Prevention – Higher Score
2022 Ford Mustang Mah-E
2022 Nissan Pathfinder
2022 Toyota Camry
2022 Toyota Highlander
Pedestrian Collision Avoidance – rated advanced
2022 Honda Accord
2022 Hyundai Palisade
2022 Hyundai Sonata
2022 Nissan Frontier crew cab
2022 Nissan Murano
2022 Subaru Climb
2022 Subaru Outback
Pedestrian Collision Avoidance – Rated Basic
2022 Chevrolet Traverse – AEB Standard/Option
2022 Ford Explorer
2022 Ford Maverick crew cab
2022 Ford Ranger crew cab
2022 Mazda CX-9
2022 Volkswagen Atlas*
2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport*
Volkswagen Tiguan 2022*
Pedestrian Collision Prevention – Not a credit score.
2022 Chevrolet Malibu – Optional AEB Equipment
Honda Pilot 2022
2022 Nissan Altima
2022 Toyota Tacoma crew cab
All vehicles are fitted with AEB as standard equipment unless otherwise noted.
*Vehicles with radar systems. Ratings for these vehicles have been calculated based on their daylight performance.