New AAA Study asks: How “Smart” is New Vehicle Technology?

With so many new safety features rolling out, AAA analyzed how effective these automobiles really are. 

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), new vehicle safety features aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Testing done by the association shows an inconsistency in the effectiveness of pedestrian-detection technology. AAA tested four popular sedans- the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry, and Tesla Model 3. The vehicles were put through various scenarios meant to simulate dangerous pedestrian situations. 

Successful pedestrian detection relies on radar, cameras and various sensors to detect people in the vehicle’s way. Once the car alerts the driver, the driver must react quickly. If the driver does not react, the car will brake automatically. This prevents a potentially fatal accident from occurring

When testers drove the cars directly toward a dummy in the dark, not only did the cars fail to brake, but completely failed to detect the pedestrian. Even at 20 miles an hour, the cars had a difficult time passing the AAA test. During the testing, pedestrians were hit approximately 89 percent of the time. 

While Tesla declined to comment on the matter, Honda said its customers are aware of the car’s technological limitations and provides a warning for all drivers to always keep their eyes on the road (featured in every owner’s manual). GM said its technologies are beneficial to customers but do not replace the primary responsibility of the driver. Toyota said its pedestrian-detection technology has performed well in other tests performed by AAA.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2017 due to traffic accidents. Of those 6,000 accidents, many are pedestrian fatalities. According to AAA director of automotive engineering Greg Brannon, “Pedestrian fatalities are really becoming a crisis. While pedestrian-detection systems have the potential to save lives, drivers shouldn’t become overly reliant on them to prevent accidents.” 

The AAA study proves that technology is never a perfect science. AAA worries that the way automotive companies advertise these safety features can leave drivers with the impression that they’re safer than they really are. 

While new vehicle safety features are constantly improving, the best safety measure you can take is to always pay attention to the road. With pedestrian fatalities occurring at alarming rates, it is especially important to remain focused and never find yourself distracted while driving.