Pedestrian Crash Avoidance Systems (PCAS) systems are an increasingly popular technology in newer cars. In theory these systems should either provide the driver with an explicit warning about the presence of a pedestrian or apply automatic braking when a collision with a pedestrian is imminent. However, these systems have acknowledged limitations and may not function as intended under real-world conditions.
To better understand how well these systems work under real-world conditions the American Automobile Association (AAA) tested PCAS on four 2019 model year vehicles, a Chevrolet Malibu with Front Pedestrian Braking, a Honda Accord with Honda Sensing, a Tesla Model 3 with Automatic Emergency Braking, and a Toyota Camry with Toyota Safety Sense.
Testing was a three step process. First researchers equipped each vehicle with on-board sensing units and cameras to "capture vehicle dynamics and position data" and verified the cars were in working order. Second, researchers drove the vehicles down a test track towards a simulated, moving pedestrian dummy, five different times for each vehicle. The stopping distance and alert time relative to the time before collision were recorded for each test run. Third, testers repeated this process under a variety of conditions including with two pedestrians in front of the vehicle, at night, and with smaller pedestrian (i.e. child sized) dummies.
- None of the systems warned the driver about a pedestrian or applied automatic braking when tested under nighttime, low light conditions
- During right-turn tests (analogous to right-turn-on-red situations) none of the PCAS provided warnings or initiated automatic braking
- Researchers indicated that improved effectiveness in nighttime conditions would significantly enhance the functionality of currently available pedestrian detection systems.
- Auto makers should be more explicit about the limitations of their systems and drivers should familiarize themselves with proper operation of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems present in their vehicle. In terms of pedestrian detection, drivers should be made aware of the difference between a collision warning system and a collision mitigation system.