Stockholm, Sweden – Approximately 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths and 25 per cent of severe injuries could be avoided if cars had pedestrian detection systems with automatic braking, according to a scientific paper by auto safety system manufacturer Autoliv Inc. The company presented the paper at the international Enhanced Safety of Vehicles conference in Stuttgart, Germany.

According to German crash data, approximately half of the fatally injured and one-third of the severely injured pedestrians are visible to the driver prior to impact, but the driver does not brake, or only brakes marginally. Consequently, a pedestrian detection system that would autonomously activate the brakes one second prior to the predicted impact would have the potential to reduce the impact speed by 41 per cent, and completely eliminate 15 per cent of pedestrian collisions.

Autoliv said that if the findings are extended beyond German crash data, approximately 1,500 fatalities out of the total 3,683 pedestrian fatalities recorded in 2007 in the EU-14 countries could be reduced.

Another contribution of an autonomous braking system is that the impact speed can also be reduced in cases where the driver does activate the brakes. Various restrictions will limit the effectiveness in real-life traffic, but the results highlight the large potential to reduce fatal and severe pedestrian injuries.

The autonomous braking system consists of an extension of the brake assist system that would activate the vehicle’s brakes when a signal is provided by a sensor system. Autoliv said that such a sensor could be based on the infrared technology that it developed for the night vision system of the new BMW 7 Series. The system gives the driver a warning, providing approximately four seconds to react when the pedestrian is at risk of being hit or is entering the risk zone.

“We see great potential in our infrared recognition system, not only for making driving at night safer and more comfortable, but also as a key component in a future pedestrian protection system,” said Steve Fredin, vice-president of engineering at Autoliv. “With more applications, the volumes will rise, which will rend the current relatively expensive infrared technology more affordable, making the technology available for ever more vehicle buyers.”

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