Automakers still have a lot of work to do on this front.
Pedestrian detection technology has been around for a few years now, coming standard in a host of new cars. We've seen and been in a few live demonstrations using dummies as test targets, but they have always been during the day and, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), that's part of the issue.
The group took several popular systems and put them through a variety of tests, and the results were shockingly poor. One of the alarming conclusions from the testing is that most of the systems can't actually see better than the car's driver once the sun has gone down.
On top of being completely ineffective at night when most pedestrian fatalities take place, the group found the systems had trouble with real-world situations. For example, when turning a vehicle into the path of an adult, the system failed to react every time and hit the target dummies.
Predictably, the tests also found that the systems performed best in the instance of the adult crossing in front of a vehicle traveling in a straight line at 20 mph, but at 30 mph most systems failed to avoid a collision. At 20 mph, the success rate was still only 40%.
Changing up the scenarios brought even worse results. A child darting out between two cars was hit 89% of the time, and when approaching two adults standing alongside the road at 20 mph, a collision happened 80% of the time. According to AAA, "In general, the systems were ineffective in all scenarios where the vehicle was traveling at 30 mph." Most alarmingly though, AAA says none of the systems detected or reacted to the adult pedestrian at night
For the tests, AAA used a 2019 Chevrolet Malibu, a 2019 Honda Accord, a 2019 Toyota Camry, and a 2019 Tesla Model 3. The group hasn't given up on the systems though and encourages automakers to keep developing them. After all, if they worked as intended they would undoubtedly save lives.