Ford is introducing new technology that detects people walking into the road at night, warns the driver, and automatically brakes if they don't stop.
Catchily named Pedestrian Detection, the system already existed for daytime, but it's now equipped for after-dark street-wanderers too. To test it, some lucky Ford employees got to hang around closed tracks at night, pushing dummies into the path of cars. They also tried it out on public roads in Paris and Amsterdam, presumably not on real drivers (the therapy bill alone would kill the project).
The system uses a windscreen camera and a bumper-mounted radar sensor, plus a database of pictures of people (as opposed to trees or other things you might see hanging out near a road). The wide-angled camera shoots at 30fps, and produces a live video feed that's constantly scanning for humans.
If it finds one, the system warns the driver with sounds and visual cues. If they don't brake, the car does it for them.
“We know some drivers find hitting the road at night a stressful experience. Especially driving in towns and cities, pedestrians – sometimes distracted by mobiles – can without warning step into the road, leaving even alert drivers very little time to avoid an accident,” says Gregor Allexi, active safety engineer at Ford of Europe. “Day and night, Pedestrian Detection is designed to help identify people already in – or about to step into – the road ahead.”
There's a good chance the new braking system will save lives - Ford notes that 1 in 5 road deaths in 2014 were pedestrians, and almost half of those were hit after dark. It'll debut on the next Ford Fiesta later this year, because if you're going to die, there are far better ways to go than being hit by a Fiesta.
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