Traffic collisions are caused not only by distracted driving, but also by distracted walking. More specifically, by pedestrians walking and texting, or “petextrians”.
Every eight minutes, a pedestrian is injured in a motor vehicle crash, according to a recent report from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In an attempt to tackle the problem Ford has developed Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection which can predict the movement of pedestrians to help reduce the severity of and, in some cases, eliminate frontal collisions altogether. Debuting in North America as an available technology for the 2017 Ford Fusion, the system has been developed to help recognize pedestrians using more than 240 terabytes of test data – equal to 20.4 trillion books, or 600 Libraries of Congress with 34 million books each.
“Since we are trying to avoid a collision that hasn’t happened yet, prediction of the future is an inherent part of the puzzle,” says Scott Lindstrom, Ford driver assist technologies manager. “Having a huge cache of data – based on real-world driving conditions – helps our system be smart enough to determine what may happen in a second that has not yet even occurred.”
Cities around the world are tackling the increasing problem of “petextrians” and distracted walking. A theme park in Chongqing, China, painted smartphone lanes on 30 meters of sidewalk in an effort to combat the problem. And officials in Seoul plan to expand similar signage across South Korea next year. Pedestrians crossing the tram tracks in Augsburg, Germany, are now warned by a strip of blinking red LED lights mounted on the ground. The tiny town of Rexburg, Idaho, took a different approach, passing a law in 2011 against texting while crossing the street and issuing a $50 fine to anyone who does.
Ford Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection uses combined radar and camera technology to scan the roadway ahead for collision risks. If one is detected, the initial response from the vehicle is to provide a visual and audible warning to the driver and temporarily mute the audio system. If the driver does not react to the warning, the technology can automatically apply up to the vehicle’s full braking force to help reduce the severity of, or even eliminate, a frontal collision.
Aaron Mills, Ford safety engineer, said: “We were startled to see how oblivious people could be of a 4,000-pound car coming toward them. “It was a real eye-opener to how distracted people are today.”
Working in daylight and in clear weather conditions – at speeds up to 50 mph – Ford’s system processes information collected from a windshield-mounted camera, which has been taught to classify different vehicle and pedestrian scenarios, along with radar located near the bumper to pick up shape reflections. The technology then combines both data streams using a unique Ford algorithm that calculates the risk of a collision. While the system may be especially helpful in unexpected situations, it does not replace the driver.
Watch Ford’s Pedestrian Detection technology in action below.