The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will begin evaluating automatic emergency braking...

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will begin evaluating automatic emergency braking systems that can detect pedestrians.

Graphic courtesy of IIHS.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will introduce a new program that evaluates automatic emergency braking systems that can detect pedestrians by April 1.

Eleven 2018-2019 small SUVs are slated as the first group of vehicles to undergo the new pedestrian autobrake testing and receive ratings from the Institute. The three-tier system will rate vehicles as basic, advanced, or superior based on their ability to avoid or mitigate a collision with pedestrian dummies in track tests at various speeds.

IIHS engineers have designed tests that simulate three potential crashes.

There are two adult pedestrian tests — one that involves the dummy crossing a street from the right side of the vehicle and perpendicular to its path, and another where the pedestrian is in the lane near the road’s edge facing away from traffic — essentially, parallel with the vehicle and midway between the vehicle’s center line and right side.

Finally, there is what the Institute regards as the most difficult test. It involves a child pedestrian running across a street from behind two vehicles parked on the right side of the vehicle's path, with a potential impact location on its front end at the center line. There is no clear sight line for cameras or the driver until the dummy emerges in the path of the vehicle.

Automakers will soon have the chance to undergo the rigorous safety testing and ideally earn high marks from the Institute. Presently, about 33% of 2019 models have a standard autobrake system with pedestrian detection, and another 33% offer an optional one.

The technology appears to be reducing crashes and saving lives. An IIHS analysis of 2005-09 crash data estimated that pedestrian detection systems could potentially mitigate or prevent up to 65% of single-vehicle crashes with pedestrians in the three most common crash configurations as well as prevent 58% of pedestrian fatalities in these crashes.

More recently, a 2017 Highway Loss Data Institute analysis showed that Subaru vehicles equipped with pedestrian detection had 35% lower claim rates for pedestrian injuries as compared with the same vehicles without the system.

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