Which mid-size cars have the best pedestrian crash prevention systems?
Published on: Monday, November 04, 2019
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Systems designed to prevent crashes with people on foot were evaluated in 16 mid-size cars in the lead-up to Halloween, a holiday that regularly ranks among the deadliest days for walkers in the United States.

Performance varied widely.

The Audi A4, BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60, and two non-luxury vehicles — the Subaru Outback and Nissan Maxima — earned top marks. They avoided collisions or slowed substantially in track tests. Three models — the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima —  earned no credit because they failed to brake significantly in multiple scenarios. 

Those are the highlights of new pedestrian crash prevention ratings released on Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry.

“Car makers often roll out these kinds of advanced systems in more expensive luxury lines or as expensive options, so the superior performance of the standard systems on the more mainstream Maxima and Outback is noteworthy,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement.

Cars were rated in four categories, from highest to lowest (superior, advanced, basic or no credit), and evaluated in a series of tests in three different scenarios: an adult pedestrian stepping into the street in the path of the oncoming vehicle with an unobstructed view, a child darting into the street from behind two parked cars, and an adult pedestrian near the side of the road in the travel lane, facing away from traffic. 

The six superior-rated vehicles reduced their speed dramatically in all six tests and in most cases avoided hitting the pedestrian dummy, eliminating or greatly reducing the risk of severe injury, according to the report. The Nissan Maxima, a non-luxury car for which pedestrian crash prevention is standard equipment for 2020, excelled in all six tests; it avoided hitting the pedestrian in all scenarios.

Among those evaluated in this recent round of testing, pedestrian crash prevention technology is standard on all six luxury cars and six out of 10 non luxury cars. Some models only offered optional systems. 

The report noted that most systems use one or two forward-facing cameras mounted near the rear view mirror and/or radar sensors in the front grille to scan the roadway for pedestrians about to enter a vehicle’s path. Algorithms, it said, determine if the detected objects are pedestrians, and in some cases, bicyclists or animals. If a collision is imminent, the system alerts the driver and brakes are applied “faster than a human can react.”

Cars with systems that were rated advanced also achieved major speed reductions, the institute said, less consistently.

And systems that earned a basic rating failed to slow the vehicle significantly in one or more of the tests, while those that earned no credit failed in multiple scenarios, like the Ford Fusion, which did not slow in simulations of a child darting across the road and only slowed slightly in the scenarios of an adult stepping into the street.

“The child dashing out from behind parked cars is a very challenging test,” Harkey added. “But it’s fitting that it was one of the main things that separated the top systems from the rest of the pack, since that is certainly a frightening scenario on Halloween or any day.” –Forbes


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