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Wondering if the technology in your car or truck will actually keep you from hitting someone who might walk in front of you as you're driving? The answer, in most cases, is yes, your car will probably stop.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a series of tests putting crash dummies in some of the most common pedestrian collision scenarios to see if 11 small SUVs stop in time or significantly slow down before a crash.
"Overall, these systems performed very well," said David Aylor, active safety testing manager for IIHS. "Nine of the 11 models avoided or significantly slowed down to mitigate the impact of a crash."
The tests come as pedestrian fatalities in the United States are close to a record high. In 2017, the number of people hit and killed by vehicles totaled 5,997, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
In recent years, automakers have been adding pedestrian crash avoidance technology to the safety packages offered in many vehicles, but as of now, these systems are not mandatory in all vehicles. Still, there are enough equipped models for the IIHS to test if these safety systems actually work.
IIHS ran three tests: a crash test dummy crossing in front of a vehicle, a dummy walking beside a vehicle (to test what happens when a person walking on the shoulder of a road strays into traffic) and a child dummy darting out into a street from behind a parked vehicle. The SUVs were tested traveling at 12 and 25 mph.
In the vast majority of tests, the SUVs either stopped in time or slowed down significantly to limit the impact of the vehicle/pedestrian collision.
"These tests show the technology works," said Aylor. "And because cameras and radar trigger the SUVs to slow down, the technology works regardless of what the driver is doing."
There were two models that struggled in the IIHS tests.
The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander was rated as "basic," with IIHS saying the Outlander's autobrake earned a superior rating in front crash prevention tests but reduced the vehicle's speed minimally in other scenarios.
Mitsubishi said, "We're proud of the Mitsubishi Outlander's consistent highest-possible "Good" ratings in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – IIHS – crashworthiness testing, as well as the vehicle's top-level "Superior" front-crash prevention. We're always working to improve our vehicles' across-the-board crash and crash-prevention systems and processes, and will study the results of this round of testing as we develop new vehicles and systems."
The 2018-19 BMW X1 was given the lowest designation of "no credit" by the IIHS.
"There were several scenarios where the X1 did not stop at all and other scenarios where it only scrubbed off a few miles per hour of speed before the collision," said Aylor.
A spokesperson for BMW said, "Our collision avoidance system is designed to a detect a vehicle. It can detect pedestrians, but in some situations it is not designed to detect a person."
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says it plans to test how well pedestrian crash avoidance systems perform with other classes of vehicles.
"Hopefully, this technology will help lower the number of pedestrians who are hit by cars," said Aylor.