Robert T. Lynch, PE, Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer
Vehicle manufacturers market their advanced safety features to keep occupants safe, but what about the safety of those who are outside the vehicle?
Advanced driver assisted technologies such as pedestrian detection systems and automatic emergency braking are designed to help mitigate pedestrian collisions or eliminate them altogether. But these systems are limited in their ability to actually detect pedestrians, especially at night.
Over the past decade, pedestrian fatalities have increased by approximately 50% at night (and 15% during the day).
Current systems rely on cameras and radar to determine if there is something in front of the vehicle. In low-light environments, the cameras, like our eyes, struggle and radar systems have a high degree of false positives and false negatives to pass as being consistently reliable.
To improve upon the current systems, lidar sensors can be installed on vehicles to map the environment in real-time, and then software can predict the paths of both the pedestrian and the vehicle. If a collision course is imminent, automatic emergency braking will intervene. Lidar sensors have a clear benefit to camera-based systems because they are not sensitive to light and work equally well at night as in the day. However, installing lidar sensors in vehicles is still cost-prohibitive. As manufacturers continue to push the limits of partial automation, lidar systems are expected to become more and more prevalent in vehicles. Perhaps then we will see a significant decrease in pedestrian impacts at night.
Robert T. Lynch, PE, Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.