Tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that automatic emergency braking systems, designed to prevent cars from hitting pedestrians, perform less effectively in the dark. According to a news release by the organization, more than half of the 23 midsize cars it tested earned “a basic score or no credit” in nighttime tests.
As the IIHS notes, 75% of pedestrian deaths in traffic crashes happen after sunset. Its own research has found that automatic emergency braking systems significantly reduce rates of crashes into pedestrians, but also that “there was no difference in crash risk for equipped and unequipped vehicles at night on unlit roads.” Many of the cars it tested that earned “superior or advance” ratings in daytime tests of their AEB systems, moreover, received ratings of “basic” or “no credit” in the tests on dark roads, meaning they did not detect or avoid hitting a pedestrian crash dummy, including in scenarios where their low beams or high beams were activated.
A report by Reuters observes that the IIHS’s emphasis on pedestrian crashes coincides with a stark increase in pedestrian fatalities across the United States, with 7,342 in 2021, an uptick of 13% since 2020 and 80% since 2009. As of next year, only vehicles that earn “superior” or “advanced” ratings in the IIHS’s nighttime tests will be eligible for its “Top Safety Pick” rating.
In a statement released by the IIHS, the organization’s president, David Harkey, said: “As we expected, most of these pedestrian AEB systems don’t work very well in the dark… But it’s clear automakers can rise to this new challenge, as Ford, Nissan and Toyota each earn superior ratings for some models.”
The vehicles that received a rating of “Superior” were the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E, 2022 Nissan Pathfinder, 2022 Toyota Camry, and 2022 Toyota Highlander. The “Advanced” rating went to the 2022 Honda Accord, 2022 Hyundai Palisade, 2022 Hyundai Sonata, 2022 Nissan Frontier crew cab, 2022 Nissan Murano, 2022 Subaro Ascent, and 2022 Subaro Outback.
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