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Consumer Reports Discusses When Your Car’s Lawsuit Avoidance Safety Feature Fails

According to a recent Consumer Reports newsletter, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released their findings about problems with this important safety feature car owners rely on to avoid a lawsuit.

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Your Car’s Lawsuit Avoidance Safety Feature

While the technical automotive term of today’s topic is actually “Automatic Emergency Braking” (AEB), I sometimes like to refer to this safety feature as “Your Vehicle’s Lawsuit Avoidance Safety Feature” ---especially when the discussion is associated with the pedestrian detection aspect of AEB.

This term came to me in Asia while watching (with some sense of incredulity) the relatively new phenomenon of seeing an entire nation of people with their heads down and eyes on their smartphone screen and thumb texting while not just walking down a sidewalk, but also while crossing an intersection during heavy traffic.

Today, back in the good ol’ USA---it’s no different. How many times a day have you seen someone text while crossing a street with nary a glance to make sure traffic will yield?! We’ve all been there. And, it harkens to the days when you would hear about a pedestrian scam where someone desperate enough would intentionally step in front of a moving vehicle to initiate a winning lawsuit. It works.

Never mind we have laws against texting and driving, but only a few regions have anemic ordinances against reckless behavior involving crosswalks and texting.

You Can't Text and Cross the Street in Honolulu, Hawaii

Hence, my moniker for AEB.

That said---and a minor rant off my chest---here is what IIHS found.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Study

According to the study, 90 percent of 2021 model vehicles have automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. This safety feature uses sensor/camera systems that work surprisingly well for detecting people and vehicles in a car’s path and responds automatically by applying the brakes, bringing the vehicle to a stop, and avoiding impact.

In fact, data from 1,500 police-reported crashes that took place between 2017 and 2020 show that AEB with pedestrian detection is effective and that vehicles equipped with AEB with pedestrian detection were 27 percent lower than vehicles without this safety feature regarding vehicle-pedestrian accidents.

Despite the new safety tech, however, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that “…pedestrian crash deaths are up 51 percent since 2009, but those fatalities aren’t distributed equally: 73 percent of crashes involving pedestrians take place between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.”

Related article: Consumer Reports Best and Worst Car Models with Lane Keeping Assist Systems

And, when the numbers were crunched from another angle by the IIHS factoring in the time of day the vehicle-pedestrian accidents happen along with lighting and driving conditions, the IIHS researchers found that vehicles with and without AEB with pedestrian detection had approximately the same odds of a pedestrian crash based on three extenuating factors:

• Time of day with respect to daylight
• Speed limits posted at the site of the accident
• Vehicles turning into the pedestrian pathway

According to IIHS vice president of research Jessica Cicchino, who authored the study:

AEB is an effective technology that is reducing pedestrian crashes. But like with any driver assistance technology, drivers still need to remain vigilant to the road when their vehicles are equipped with it,” she tells CR. “AEB may not detect pedestrians as well in the dark, at high speeds, or while turning.

The AEB announced that it will begin developing a nighttime pedestrian AEB test and will likely make it part of pedestrian crash prevention ratings that will in turn influence automakers to find solutions to the problem.

Related article: Consumer Reports New Car Winners and Losers for This Important Safety Feature

Consumer Reports stated that, “Nighttime tests will likely spur automakers to develop systems and utilize technologies that work better in all lighting conditions, says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s auto test center. “These systems need to be optimized to be able to recognize pedestrians—especially moving pedestrians—more quickly.”

And while we wait for this new tech to be developed in next year’s (or later models) car owners need to be reminded that all assisted driving features are not to be mistaken for automated driving and that drivers need to remain aware at all times while driving.

And finally…

For additional articles about driver safety, here are two selected articles for making our roads safer: “Driver Assist Safety Can Be Fooled Not Just in Tesla, But in Ford Vehicles and Many Others Too” and “Consumer Reports Analysts on Non-Tesla Self Driving Featured Car Models Available Today.”

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Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

Image Source: Unspash

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