Twelve out of 23 midsize cars, midsize SUVs, and small pickups that recently underwent a new nighttime test of pedestrian automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) garnered just a basic score or no credit.
Specifically, the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Ford Maverick, Ford Ranger, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, and Volkswagen Tiguan earned basic scores. However, the pedestrian AEB systems in the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Pilot, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Tacoma don’t perform well enough in the dark to earn any credit, according to IIHS engineers.
On the upside, four vehicles — Ford Mustang Mach-E, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Highlander — captured superior ratings. Moreover, seven others scored advanced ratings. These include the Honda Accord, Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Frontier, Nissan Murano, Subaru Ascent, and Subaru Outback.
The 23 vehicles were the initial batch to undergo the new test, which aims to address the high percentage of pedestrian crashes that occur on dark roads. In 2021, some 7,300 pedestrians lost their lives on the nation’s roadways, accounting for nearly a fifth of all traffic fatalities. Moreover, 75% of those fatalities occur at night, when research shows most pedestrian AEB systems are less effective.
In fact, IIHS described the results of its first nighttime ratings as “discouraging.” These types of vehicles — SUVs and small pickups, specifically — are linked to worse crash outcomes with pedestrians. So, AEB systems that don’t perform well when the sun goes down increases the level of danger associated with larger vehicles for people on foot.
The IIHS nighttime test includes two common pedestrian crash scenarios, an adult crossing the road and an adult walking along the road at the edge of the travel lane. The ambient illumination surrounding the test track must remain below 1 lux — about the amount of light cast by a full moon — throughout the evaluation.
The crossing test is conducted at 12 mph and 25 mph, and the parallel test is conducted at 25 and 37 mph. Scores are awarded based on the average speed reductions in five repeated test runs on dry pavement.
Only the superior-rated Pathfinder avoided a collision with the pedestrian dummy in both test scenarios at all test speeds with both its low and high beams.
Automakers need to rise to the challenge and develop pedestrian AEB systems that work much harder in the dark. Ultimately, an advanced or superior rating in the nighttime test will become a requirement for the Top Safety Pick+ award in 2023, IIHS noted.