Research Questions Automatic Braking’s Effectiveness in the Dark


As reckless driving continues to increase, the US Department of Transportation announces their plan to push for laws that would require cars to have automatic brakes, but studies show that this technology may not create much of a difference when it comes to safety.

The US Department of Transportation recently announced that to address rising levels of reckless driving and car crash deaths, it would push to establish rules requiring the installation of automated braking technology in new cars. A new study suggests that such technology might not be the panacea it seems to be. As Streetsblog described in a recent report, the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that “automatic braking systems aren’t reliable on unlit roads where more than one-third of all walking deaths currently happen.” To make matters worse, the systems “don’t work well at the deadliest speeds, either.”

The study analyzed more than 1,500 crashes involving vehicles that had automated braking technology. In areas that didn’t have street lighting, it found, there was “no difference in the odds of a nighttime pedestrian crash for vehicles with and without the crash avoidance technology.”

As Streetsblog notes, federal data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 34% of pedestrian car crash deaths from 2015 to 2019 occurred “on unlit roads at night,” and that 65% of these happened in rural areas, even though unlit roads “are more commonly associated” with rural environs. Although the technology effectively reduced the chance of cars hitting pedestrians “by about 32 percent in daylight, and 33 percent on well-lit roads after dark,” the study found “no reduction at all” in incidents where the road’s speed limit was more than 50 miles per hour, which Streetsblog describes as the “threshold above which walkers die more than 75 percent of the time.”

In a statement about the study, the Institute for Highway Safety’s vice president of research said, “It’s a great reminder of the fact that the vehicle is just one part of a safe system… This technology can save lives, but we still need to focus our attention on improving all parts of the system at the same time.”

More information about the study into the effectiveness of automated braking technology is available via Streetsblog.

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