By on February 21, 2019

IIHS/YouTube

Not satisfied with turning up the heat on automakers via new crash tests and headlight performance evaluations, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety now has pedestrian avoidance systems under its microscope.

In its first round of tests, IIHS looked at the systems offered in 11 popular subcompact through midsize crossovers — vehicles that aren’t hard to imagine roaming leafy streets where wayward soccer balls (and those who chase them) lurk behind every parked car. The good news for both drivers and manufacturers? Nine of the 11 scored good marks.

Too bad about Mitsubishi and BMW…

Pedestrian detection systems use a combination of cameras and forward-facing radar to identify pedestrians and cyclists, determine whether person and vehicle are on a collision course, then, if necessary, trip the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system. The driver also gets a visual and audio warning.

It’s key that this electronic magic work properly; otherwise, you’ve paid too much for the vehicle and probably just put your neighbor’s kid in the hospital. IIHS claims it began looking into the systems’ effectiveness after stats revealed a sharp uptick in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States.

The institute tested the 2018–19 Honda CR-V, 2019 Subaru Forester, 2019 Toyota RAV4, 2019 Volvo XC40, 2019 Chevrolet Equinox, 2018–19 Hyundai Kona, 2019 Kia Sportage, 2018–19 Mazda CX-5, 2019 Nissan Rogue, 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander and 2018–19 BMW X1. Of these models, only the Forester, RAV4, Rogue, X1, and XC40 have pedestrian detection as standard equipment on all trims.

IIHS staff ran the vehicles through three scenarios, with performance rated as basic, advanced, or superior. The first test involved an adult entering the street (and path of the vehicle) from the right side of a road. The second saw a child bolt from between two cars, while the third test featured an adult walking, back turned, in the driving lane, near the edge of the road.

In all tests, hypothetical driver reaction time ranges from 1 to 2 seconds.

Vehicle speeds for the first two (perpendicular) tests were 12 and 25 mph; the meandering adult scenario (parallel test) saw speeds of 25 and 37 mph. Tests were performed on dry pavement, and repeated five times. Given the faux child’s sudden appearance from between two cars and the lack of driver reaction time, test No. 2 is the most crucial one. It’s also the hardest for high-tech safety systems to pass.

“Only the Forester and RAV4 avoided hitting the dummies in every perpendicular test,” the IIHS wrote in its findings. “The XC40 avoided the adult dummy in the 12 mph and 25 mph tests and avoided the child dummy in the 12 mph test.”

Even if contact is made, vehicle speed can make the difference between bruises and death. The IIHS awarded points for deceleration and for giving the driver early warning of oncoming obstacles (the CR-V and Forester earned credit for being the only two crossovers to issue a warning before brake application).

The institute found that some vehicles, despite performing well in avoidance tests with other vehicles, crapped the bed when it came to pedestrians.

“The Outlander’s autobrake system mitigated its speed by about 19 mph in the 25 mph parallel adult test and by 11 mph in the 12 mph perpendicular child test,” the IIHS stated, adding that the other tests saw only minimal speed reduction before impact.

The X1 fared worst of all. That crossover “didn’t brake at all in the 37 mph parallel adult scenario,” the institute said.

“The luxury SUV had minimal to no speed reductions in the other tests,” the IIHS found, despite the presence of BMW’s Daytime Pedestrian Detection system. You can watch the little Bimmer drilling all sorts of humanity in the video posted below. The awful performance knocked the X1 out of the ratings, earning it no score. Meanwhile, the Outlander was the only vehicle to earn a rating of “basic.”

Elsewhere, the results weren’t nearly as bad. Earning the highest rating of “superior” were the CR-V, Forester, RAV4, and XC40. “Advanced” ratings (meaning good, but not excellent) were handed out to the Equinox, Kona, Sportage, CX-5, and Rogue.

If automakers think these test results won’t harm their chances of earning a coveted Top Safety Pick award, think again. IIHS spokesman Joseph Young tells Automotive News that pedestrian crash avoidance criteria will factor into the institute’s 2020 awards.

[Image: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/YouTube]

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40 Comments on “Tap the Brake: IIHS Adds Wayward Pedestrians to Its Testing Regimen...”


  • avatar
    quickson

    For BMW, not actively avoiding or slowing down for pedestrians was probably a feature, not a bug.

    Or it’s possible that their system is so advanced that it could detect that the dummies were poors.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      That’s BMW’s new line of vehicles with Active Pedestrian Decapitation.

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      It’s the ultimate DRIVING machine, not the ultimate stopping machine.

      Making Priorities Great Again

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I could see that being BMW’s actual defense (leaving out the poors remark of course) “our system is so advanced that it can distinguish between test dummies and real humans” BMW may have to enlist some hobos for real world testing though. Not sure where they would source the little tikes from however. They probably have some test facilities in Eastern Europe, would be the first choice to round up test subjects I would think.

  • avatar
    Urlik

    IIHS, making your cars continually more expensive one new “trying to stay relevant” test at a time.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    The system should also sound the horn and flash the high beams.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    OK, I’m all for pedestrian avoidance systems if we can start having long low hoods again. We had to make the front ends a certain height so that it was less dangerous when ped’s get hit. If we don’t hit them at all, then we should be able to bring back some style.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Welp, given the NHTSA study that recently came out that pedestrian deaths are increasing this doesn’t surprise me. The BMW video is…amusing. Part of me goes ugh, more $$$, but part of me goes the headlight ratings were needed – so many are crappy so maybe this is needed. I would imagine that drilling pedestrians cost insurance companies a lot of money. Even if little Johnny runs out between two cars at night dressed in head-to-toe black it isn’t hard to find a judge and/or jury willing to put a small percentage of liability on the operator.

    I would think, if there was a shred of forethought by BMW, they could update the system with a reprogramming at the dealer to address its uselessness.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Good to see BMW doing so “well”, as they are claiming they’ll have the first autonomous level 3 car on the market in 2021.

    I think it’s great that IIHS is doing this testing. Government is sitting on its hands hiding behind the mantra of free markets solve everything fourth grade “thinking”. Someone has to call these automotive braggarts out and get them to meet some kind of basic standard instead of their issuing unctuous PR frippery that whatever dimbulb system they’ve come up with is “wonderful”. If it takes the insurance industry to come up with standards because nobody else can be bothered, so be it. I pay zero attention to NHTSA test results these days – they’re mired in ancient thinking.

    Pedestrian detection and avoidance/emergency braking is the at the very basis of so-called autonomous vehicles. If a manufacturers can’t get that stuff working, all claims of autonmomous operation are null and void.

    Could the BMW have braked for a wayward giraffe that escaped from a local zoo? We’ll never know.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Another day I test drove the car. So, I took it on curvy road and want to do some real driving. Damn car starts to steer me into the lane. So, I am thinking, what if there is a dead animal, piece of 2×4, brown trash can; or something like this I need to avoid? What a stupid idea!!

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The BMW “leave no witnesses” protection system. Sure the kid or drunk adult wandering into the street is totally at fault, but is that going to stop them from suing the “rich” BMW owner, or making a false accusation to the police that gets the BMW drivers license suspended? Much better to put such people out of their misery by making sure they don’t survive their own stupidity and ruin the BMW owner’s life in the process – its the way Darwin would have wanted it.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    So, more pedestrians are being hit by vehicles. Where’s the drill-down into the data separating the aggregate into categories? Here’s three examples:
    (1)”small child darting into roadway”
    (2)”I’m a dickhead and have the law on my side so I’ll just walk in front of you and make you lock them up”
    (3)”Wow this Youtube video sure looks great on my new phone!! :) :) :)”

    When driving into any urban area empirical observation indicates a segment of the pedestrian population is attempting to drain the shallow end of the gene pool. For that cohort my sympathy is decidedly modest when they get a physics lesson. The kid gets a pass.

    IMO the liability should be allocated based on the actual circumstances of the incident and not rest solely on the drivers shoulders. Anyone remember what our parents told us….”look both ways before crossing”? It should come back as “Look both ways before crossing and don’t be a fcking idiot”.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      25% of pedestrian fatalities had BACs above 0.08%.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Link please

        • 0 avatar
          EGSE

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/thousands-of-inebriated-pedestrians-die-each-year-in-traffic-accidents/2018/08/03/7395af6c-8926-11e8-8aea-86e88ae760d8_story.html

          https://www.alcohol.org/guides/walking-drunk/

          https://www.npr.org/2017/03/30/522085503/2016-saw-a-record-increase-in-pedestrian-deaths

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        A quick search found a Washington Compost article that stated 38% of pedestrian fatalities tested positive for alcohol. Only 18% of drivers who hit pedestrians tested positive. Numbers came from the NHTSA. I know that all censure of a man’s self is oblique praise and all, but inability to use a search engine in 2019 is pathetic.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Subaru rated the best in a Car & Driver story a few months back.
    Must be the best.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    It’ll be interesting to see how these systems are designed to cope with snow and ice. Lately Minnesota sidewalks have been covered with feet of snow and there are a certain number of pedestrians who need to hit the surface streets to her anywhere. The roads haven’t been brilliant either.

    The number of those walking who stick as close to the edge while facing the correct direction (toward oncoming traffic per the driver’s manual – in Minnesota at least) is low. The number wearing all black even at 5 in the morning, wandering around aimlessly is pretty high. It’s a dirty mix of aggravating factors in the car versus pedestrian arena.

    As stated above, I’m also in favor of an audible warning to those walking on the streets, as a way of saying pay attention, I can only go so wide to avoid you.

  • avatar
    millmech

    KILL ALL ROBOTS

  • avatar

    Worried about injuring/killing a pedestrian vs not worried about terminating the life of a child in the womb (and now, in NY, after birth).

    Is there some sort of incongruity in the culture’s/society’s reasoning?

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      It would shock and educate the average liberal to actually READ comments on a site like Breitbart to see just how hard core and utterly non-racist are you anti-abortionists.

      As a staunch supporter of Margaret Sanger I always fell out with your kind.

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