Driving in the dark is less of a worry with Ford’s pedestrian detection tech

Article by Christian A., on March 20, 2017

A lot of people get anxious while driving - especially at night. Why? Because humans naturally fear the dark. And I’m not just making things up. Numerous studies conducted by Ford cites that people are not very fond of the dark due to the fear we inherited from our “caveman ancestors”. Weird, huh? But while it’s a stretch to believe these things, driving in the dark does cause some anxiety. And that’s a fact.

However, Ford has good news. It has finally updated its Pedestrian Detection system to work better in low light. That’s why drivers, as well as pedestrians, should be thankful as there’s one less thing to worry about at nightfall.

Ford’s active safety engineer in Europe, Gregor Allexi, states that hitting the road at night is a stressful situation. And you can’t blame people for that. This upset feeling is experienced by many drivers, both in small towns and in cities, no matter how seasoned of a driver you may be.

As people put so much attention on their mobile phones nowadays and get distracted easily, pedestrians don’t even notice a car coming when crossing the street, which leads to unwanted accidents. I mean, it’s funny how some people prioritize a text message over their safety, right? So this is where the necessity of technological development comes in. The Pedestrian Detection helps identify people who are already on, and who are just about to step on to the road.

The company developed a windshield-mounted camera that can shoot 30 frames per second, with a wide-angle lens that can identify pedestrians effectively in low-light. Alongside the camera is a radar, with the ability to spot pedestrians.

Images will then be matched with pedestrian-like shapes from the database, where in the system notifies the driver if a pedestrian has been detected, and would even apply brakes if it senses danger before the driver steps on the brakes. How cool is that? Accidents will be less likely to happen, thanks to Ford.

The first Pedestrian Detection system was launched in 2015. However, this only worked in the daytime. So the company tweaked the program and did some night time testing in simulated real-world conditions, coming up with a much improved version that works in low-light situations.

The next-generation Ford Fiesta, to be released later this year in Europe, will be the first one to have the newly updated system. It will be launched next in the upcoming Ford Fiesta in Europe later this year. Its launch in North America will be on the 2018 F-150 and Mustang.

Press Release

Scared of the Dark? You’re Not Alone. Fear Handed Down From Cavemen Ancestors Causes On-Road Stress; This New Tech Could Help

It’s not just children who are afraid of the dark. Whether preferring to sleep with a light on – or worrying about driving at night – grown-ups get scared too.

Some experts believe fear of the dark, or nyctophobia, can be traced back to our cave-dwelling ancestors, who were more at risk of being attacked by predators in the dark. Today it affects us behind the wheel.

Worries over night blindness, and fear of hitting someone – or something – top a new poll of night-time driving fears, commissioned by Ford. * And for the latter at least, there is now a solution that goes beyond simply eating more carrots. The company is for the first time introducing new technology that is designed to detect pedestrians at night and then automatically apply the brakes if the driver does not respond to initial warnings.

“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,” said Gregor Allexi, active safety engineer, Ford of Europe. “Day and night, Pedestrian Detection is designed to help identify people already in – or about to step into – the road ahead.”

Of thousands of drivers surveyed across Europe, 81 per cent admit to being scared on the roads at night, rising to 87 per cent for women. More than half say poor night vision is a source of stress, and more than a third worry they might be involved in an accident. Fears that they may hit a pedestrian were highlighted by one in five drivers surveyed.

This is a global issue. In 2014, across Europe, more than 1 in 5 road fatalities were pedestrians, almost half of whom died following accidents that occurred after dark. ** In the U.S. in 2015, 3 in 4 motor-vehicle related pedestrian deaths happened during dark hours, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For the improved Pedestrian Detection technology, now able to work at night for the first time, the development team worked at night, sending life-sized dummies into the path of vehicles on closed tracks, and testing the system on public roads in busy cities including Paris and Amsterdam.

How it works

Pedestrian Detection processes information from a radar located in the bumper, and a windshield‑mounted camera; while a database of “pedestrian shapes” enables the system to distinguish people from objects such as trees and road signs. The camera delivers more than 30 snapshots every second – faster than a cinema projector. The video live-feed and wide viewing angle enables the system to pick out pedestrians, even in low-light conditions, illuminated only by the headlights.

If the system detects an imminent collision with a pedestrian, it first provides audible and visual warnings to the driver. Should the driver not respond, the system automatically applies the brakes. Later this year, the more advanced Pedestrian Detection technology will be introduced on the next generation Fiesta in Europe – currently on show at the Geneva Motor Show. In North America, the new technology will debut first on the 2018 Ford F-150 and 2018 Ford Mustang.

Driving at night hacks:

Here are a few ways to make driving at night easier:

Ensure windows and mirrors are clean and free of ice and condensation
Clean all exterior lights and check they work, keep spare bulbs in the car
On unlit roads, put headlights on full beam and dip them on seeing oncoming vehicles
Don’t drive tired or for more than two hours without a break
Schedule regular optician appointments to check your vision

# # #

* Poll conducted by Opinion Matters from a sample of 5,030 drivers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K.

** European Road Safety Observatory. Traffic Safety Basic Facts 2016

Topics: ford, technology, driving

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