The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is preparing to add pedestrian protection to the criteria for its coveted Top Safety Pick ratings next year, a move that could help speed the deployment of the crash-prevention technology across the automotive fleet.
The move comes in response to the rise in deadly crashes involving pedestrians. In 2017, there were 5,977 pedestrian fatalities, a 45 percent increase from the low point in 2009, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.
Vehicles with pedestrian protection systems can detect and brake for pedestrians using a combination of automatic emergency braking systems, tiny cameras and radar sensors in the front grille that continuously scan the roadway and horizon for pedestrians, and in some cases bicyclists or animals, that might cross ahead.
"We want to encourage manufacturers to include pedestrian detection capabilities as they equip more of their vehicles with automatic emergency braking systems," David Aylor, the institute's manager of active safety testing, said in a statement accompanying an IIHS evaluation of 11 crossovers with pedestrian protection systems. "We also want to arm consumers with information about these systems so they can make smart choices when shopping for a new vehicle."
IIHS, funded by the insurance industry, scours claims data and operates its own labs and test tracks to identify areas for improvement in vehicle safety. While it has no power to mandate changes, it plays an important role in the adoption and refinement of advanced safety features, because automakers compete for the group's annual Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ ratings, which can influence car shoppers.
Unlike the federal government, with its five-star crash-safety ratings, IIHS typically changes its criteria from year to year, adding new tests and requiring better performance on existing tests to qualify for its highest rating.