AUTOMATIC Emergency Braking systems on six mid-size cars have taken top honours from the IIHS in recognising pedestrians and significantly slowing or stopping altogether to avoid injurious or fatal crashes. 

Three others didn’t earn a rating because they failed to slow, or didn’t slow at all, in certain tests. 

The IIHS is a mighty road safety organisation in the US – it stands for Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – and is funded by car insurance companies.

Its latest review of AEB systems on mid-sized sedans follows a similar test by the AAA, (American Automobile Association) which found that pedestrian safety systems  on some scars could not be relied on to prevent crashes at night in real-world situations.

The results were released by the IIHS ahead of Halloween, which the insurance industry-funded agency says is one of the deadliest days for pedestrian-involved crashes in the US.  

All tests were conducted during the day, and the IIHS noted that those systems may not perform similarly at night, though they should when paired with good-performing headlights.

The 2019 Audi A4, 2019-2020 BMW 3-Series, 2020 Subaru Outback, 2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, 2019-2020 Nissan Maxima, and 2019 Volvo S60 all earned top marks for their pedestrian detection sensors and cameras included with their automatic emergency braking systems. 

The systems all earned “Superior” ratings from the IIHS, which according to the agency meant that they “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.”

All but the C-Class and Maxima included the “Superior”-rated pedestrian safety systems as standard equipment for 2019 model-year vehicles, and Nissan will make the equipment standard on the 2020 Maxima. 

The IIHS noted that the Maxima avoided hitting the pedestrians in all tests performed.

“Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, so it’s encouraging that pedestrian crash prevention systems are standard equipment in 12 out of the 16 midsize cars we tested, including five out of six superior-rated systems,”  IIHS President David Harkey said. 

“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.” 

The IIHS tests simulated an adult or a child walking into the road in a path perpendicular to the direction of the car while the vehicle travelled at 12 and 25 mph, similar to a person crossing the road. In the fifth and sixth tests, the IIHS simulated an adult in the roadway traveling parallel to the direction of the vehicle traveling 25 and 37 mph, (20 and 60km/h) such as a pedestrian walking in the direction of traffic in the road. 

The 2019-202 Honda Accord, 2019-2020 Lexus ES 350, 2019 Mazda 6, 2019-2020 Nissan Altima, 2019-2020 Tesla Model 3, and 2019-2020 Toyota Camry earned “Advanced” ratings, one step down from “Superior.” 

To earn an “Advanced” rating, the car must slow significantly, although somewhat less consistently as “Superior”-rated vehicles. 

While the standard system on the 2019-2020 BMW 3-Series earned a “Superior” rating, the optional spend-up system on the 3-Series only earned an “Advanced” rating.

Both the standard and optional systems on the 2019-2020 Chevy Malibu earned a “Basic” rating. 

The standard system included on the 2019-2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class also earned a “Basic” nod. 

Vehicles rated as “Basic” failed to slow in one or more tests, and vehicles that didn’t receive credit failed to slow at all. 

The systems included on the 2019-2020 Ford Fusion, 2019 Hyundai Sonata, and 2019 Kia Optima didn’t receive credit at all on the tests.

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.