Volvo Cyclist Detection gives pedal-pushers a brake
Volvo adds bicyclists to the list of objects its cars can detect and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a collision.
Vehicle collisions account for about half of all cyclist deaths on European roads, according to Volvo. That’s the reason the safety-minded automaker is adding sensing technology that specifically identifies cyclists and automatically applies a car’s brakes to help prevent hitting them.
Certain Volvo vehicles already identify cars stopped or slowing ahead and pedestrians crossing the road. Now the Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto-brake feature will do the same for pedal-powered 2-wheel riders.
Showing how the evolution of active safety technology allows adding more features using existing components -- and will eventually lead to autonomous vehicles -- Volvo’s Cyclist Detection employs the same sensors and cameras as previous systems.
Like Volvo’s City Safety, which automatically stops a car to prevent a fender-bender in stop-and-go traffic, and its existing pedestrian-sensing system, Cyclist Detection employs a radar sensor mounted in the front grille, a camera behind the rearview mirror and a central processing unit.
The radar senses objects in front of the car and determines the distance, and its dual-mode capability allows for a wide field of vision to detect pedestrians and cyclists. The camera’s job is to decide the type of object and discern the movement pattern of a pedestrian or cyclist. But it’s the advance in software -- specifically, more rapid vision processing -- that allows the system to sense the telltale movements of a cyclist, such as swerving into the path of a car when both are heading in the same direction.
Cyclist Detection will be available on the Volvo S60, XC60, XC70, S80 and upcoming V40 starting in May 2013. Because the processing unit is larger, older models cannot be upgraded with the new software. The system will also automatically brake for vehicles that swerve into the host car’s lane.
In introducing the system at the 3013 Geneva Motor Show this week, Doug Speck, Volvo's vice president of marketing, sales and customer service, pedaled a bicycle onstage at a press conference. He said in a statement that Cyclist Detection fits with Volvo’s philosophy of using technology to cover “more and more objects and situations” to help a car avoid a collision. He added that the company intends to “keep moving towards our long-term vision to design cars that do not crash.”
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will offer animal detection later this year on their next-generation night-vision systems, although it's unclear if these systems will also apply the brakes to avoid a pending collision. According to the BBC, Volvo is working on adding detection for horses, deer and other animals for its next update.
On two occasions, I've witnessed the devastation from the aftermath of a cycle and automobile collison. In the first instance, a drunk driver plowed through an experienced group of cyclists who were completing a road course. Through the efforts of bystanders and some injured cyclists, the most critically injured cyclist's life was spared.
On the second occasion an inattentive driver stopped at a red light and then immediately took off from the red light (essentially treating it like a stop sign) and plowed into my brother as he was driving his motorcycle through an intersection. I still cringe every time I see a life flight helicopter....
I think if drivers did what they were supposed to do while behind the wheel, we wouldn't have to invent such devices. They simply give the driver another "ability" that enables them to further reduce their concentration of actually driving their vehicle responsibly.
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