Automatic braking systems are quickly gaining the favor of drivers and safety groups alike. Utilizing an array of cameras, sensors, and on-board radar, these systems can often react to emergency situations quicker than even the most attentive human driver. Pedestrian safety and the functionality of these emergency systems is the subject of a new test and rating system from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and as you can probably guess by the headline, not all these systems function equally.
For this particular test, IIHS evaluated 11 compact SUVs from a range of automakers. Each model was subjected to three different tests simulating adults and children entering the vehicle’s path. Among them was a simple side-step test with an adult stepping perpendicular into traffic, a child darting into traffic from between two parked cars, and an adult walking parallel to traffic near the side of the road. The tests were conducted at various speeds, but all allowed for a reaction time of approximately two seconds.
Gallery: IIHS Pedestrian Crash Tests
All but one SUV received a passing grade, with four – the Toyota RAV4, Volvo XC40, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester – garnering superior ratings. Advanced ratings were given to the Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Kona, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan Rogue. The Mitsubishi Outlander scored basic for killing one of the test dummies in dramatic fashion.
Meanwhile, the BMW X1 said "hold my beer" and proceeded to kill all three test dummies. In fact, the Bimmer never even slowed down for any of the tests. As such, IIHS couldn’t award the X1 any credit at all. Perhaps BMW engineers in Munich need to revisit the X1’s programming.
Pedestrian deaths in the U.S. have been steadily rising in recent years. An IIHS study from 2011 indicated that pedestrian detection systems had the potential to mitigate or completely prevent 65 percent of pedestrian accidents in certain situations. The science seems sound, provided all the bugs are worked out of the system.