Honda tech warns drivers of pedestrian presence

Honda demonstrated today a new system to prevent cars from hitting pedestrians. A communication link between a car and a pedestrian's smartphone warns the driver of an impending collision.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read

Automakers have been developing a new networked technology called vehicle-to-vehicle communication, V2V for short, where cars will constantly broadcast their location, speed, and direction of travel. This system could help prevent most collisions.

Unfortunately, pedestrians are left out of this new safety scheme, because you can build this type of communication system into cars, but not into people.

Or can you?

Honda pedestrian safety tech
A pedestrian's phone could warn him that a vehicle is backing up nearby. Honda

Honda released a video today demonstrating a vehicle-to-pedestrian communication system, relying on the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone.

Researchers have developed the V2V system based on the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) protocol. This system would, for example, let a car broadcast the fact that its driver just hit the brakes very hard. Following cars would receive that signal, and could flash an alert to their drivers, or even apply the brakes themselves so as to avoid a collision. The V2V system would be more effective than relying on drivers to perceive brake lights ahead, as it would know how hard the brakes are being applied.

Honda equipped a smartphone with the same DSRC communications equipment as its test car. The phone can then bring a pedestrian into the safety network.

Similar to the car, the phone broadcasts its location and direction of travel. At intersections or crossings where pedestrians and drivers can't see each other, Honda's system alerts both before a potential collision.

The pedestrian's phone can sound a warning and show an alert, while, in Honda's demonstration, a head-up display warns the driver a pedestrian is about to cross his path. Taking it a step further, the system can even show the driver if the pedestrian is texting, on a call, or listening to music, and so might be less aware of the car.

Honda demonstrated similar technology for motorcycles.

As of now, there is no timeline for vehicle-to-pedestrian communications to show up in cars and phones, but both automakers and government agencies are in the process of testing and evaluating V2V technologies.