The Internet is melting with images and videos of South Australian Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan’s roo strike while demonstrating autonomous emergency braking, but driver error was actually to blame.

ONLINE NEWS SITES were quick to jump on PR nightmare that was South Australian Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan ploughing into a fake kangaroo at a driverless car conference. Before the Minister was even out of the car, news sites and even some of the speakers at the international Driverless Car Conference in Adelaide last week began using the incident to highlight the need for more research into autonomous vehicle features. However, driver error is being blamed for the incident.

Minister Mullighan was a passenger in a 2014 Subaru Outback fitted with Subaru’s EyeSight camera-based safety system that was being used to demonstrate autonomous emergency braking by travelling at 40km/h towards a fake kangaroo. The vehicle was expected to stop before the obstacle and while it failed for the cameras, it performed the exercise perfectly a number of other times.

Subaru has told Practical Motoring that while it was not involved in the demonstration it has been in contact with the vehicle’s owner, the University of South Australia, and its operator, the Centre for Automotive Safety Research and says the incident was the result of driver error and not failure by the vehicle’s safety systems.

Subaru EyeSight system
Subaru’s EyeSight safety system uses forward-facing cameras to monitor the road and detect potential ‘problems’. If the driver fails to react to warnings the vehicle will apply the brakes to avoid a collision, if the driver lightly applies the brakes EyeSight will help to reduce the impact force but won’t be capable of avoiding it completely.

“Our feedback from the Centre is that the incident occurred due to the driver lightly applying the brakes, rather than letting the EyeSight system react. If EyeSight [Subaru’s active camera-based safety system that controls features like autonomous emergency braking] had been left to operate without driver intervention, it would have prevented a collision if the speed and distance from the object were within its operating parameters,” said David Rowley, Subaru national corporate affairs manager.

“The Centre says the same test was conducted a number of times with 100% success prior to the demonstration. Afterwards, it was also conducted approximately 20 times successfully,” he added.

Read more about our experience with Subaru EyeSight HERE.


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  1. That sounds like a programing deficit to me. It seems Subaru need to program another if/than condition that allows for the system to work when brake pressure is applied. Autonomous braking ought to work with emergency brake assist and stepped in.

    I can’t think of many times I’ve come across skippy that your not at least covering the brake peddle.

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