Putting Automated Brake Systems to the Test

Crash tests show automated brakes in most SUVs performed well while one luxury carmaker questioned test methods used.

Pedestrian deaths on U.S. roads has risen sharply in recent years. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 5,977 pedestrians died in a vehicle crash in 2017, up 45 percent from 2009.

Auto manufacturers are including new and improved safety features in hopes of driving down those numbers. One of which are automatic emergency braking systems - a series of cameras mounted to the front of vehicles that scan the roadway in search of pedestrians, cyclists, or animals. If an object is detected then the system sends an alert to the driver and applies the breaks.

But just how good do automated brakes work on small SUVs?

Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety put them to the test.

"We want to encourage manufacturers to include pedestrian detection capabilities as they equip more of their vehicles with automatic emergency braking systems," says David Aylor, the institute’s manager of Active Safety Testing. "We want to arm consumers with information about these systems so they can make smart choices when shopping for a new vehicle."

The group looked at eleven popular small SUVs; the 2018-2019 Honda CRV, 2019 Subaru Forester, 2019 Toyota Rav4, 2019 Volvo XC40, 2019 Chevrolet Equinox, 2018-2019 Hyundai Kona, 2019 Kia Sportage, 2018-2019 Mazda CX-5, 2019 Nissan Rogue, 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander, and the 2018-2019 BMW X1.

For the tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety used robotic dummies ranging from the typical size of the adult to one the size of 7-year-old. The speeds the SUVs traveled varied, ranging from 12 miles per hour to 37 miles per hour.

The vast majority of SUVs earned top ratings with the Honda CRV, Subaru Forester, Toyota Rav4, and Volvo XC40 all earning a “superior” rating.

Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Kona, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan Rogue all scored “advanced while the Mitsubishi Outlander scored “basic.”

Out of the eleven SUVs tested, BMW X1 earned the lowest rating of “no credit.”

The X1, which comes with BMW’s Daytime Detection System, didn’t brake at all in the [adult test], sending the dummy airborne,” reads the results from the institute. “In other tests, the luxury SUV didn’t slow in time to avoid hitting the dummies.”

A spokesperson for BMW told NBC 7 Responds that they are “particularly disappointed with the results.

“BMW has a long history of safety innovation, with an engineering philosophy based on three pillars: accident avoidance, passenger protection during and after a crash, and post-crash notification.”

The luxury carmaker said the poor results could be an issue with the testing, and not the X1’s Automatic Emergency Braking System. 

“The upper threshold for this system on the X1 is 60km/h or 37.5 mph as indicated on the vehicle speedometer. Given that BMW speedometers are calibrated conservatively and that the IIHS test was performed at exactly 37 mph, it may be that [institute] tested the system above the designed threshold.”

Contact Us