Volvo has long enjoyed a reputation as a maker of safe cars, but now pedestrians as well as passengers are set to benefit from its new Pedestrian Avoidance Technology (PAT), which will first be available in Australia in the Volvo S60 coming out in December.
This collision warning system detects pedestrians in front of the car, activates a warning if there is risk of an accident, and will also automatically activate the brakes if the driver fails to respond. Cars with PAT will have a radar integrated into the front grille, and a camera and control unit fitted into the front of the interior rear-view mirror.
The radar detects objects in front of the car and their distance from the vehicle. The camera then determines what the object is and if they are pedestrians, it will calculate whether they are likely to step onto the road by tracing their pattern of movement.
If it detects an imminent collision, it activates an audible warning, flashing lights in the windscreen and the brakes are pre-charged. If the driver doesn't react, full braking power is automatically applied.
The system is designed to recognise objects higher than 80cm, which means it should detect children over the age of three, and it can assess whether a pedestrian is in danger within 0.5 second.
Volvo claims PAT can completely avoid a collision with a pedestrian at speeds of up to 35km/h if the driver does not brake, and at higher speeds, the focus is on slowing down the car as much as possible prior to the impact.
The company has been developing this pedestrian avoidance system for over 10 years. It says half a million test kilometres were driven in some of the world's most densely populated cities — including Paris, Tokyo and New Delhi — so that the system could store the patterns of movement of pedestrians in different traffic situations, countries and climatic conditions.
According to the Australian Automobile Association, 3449 pedestrians have been killed on Australian roads in the last 10 years. Over a third of the victims were over the age 60, and 10 per cent were children under 14.
Dr Bruce Corben, senior research fellow at Monash Accident Research Centre, cites research that half of all pedestrian traffic fatalities don't involve braking by the driver, and travel speed is critically important. Nine out of 10 pedestrians struck at 30km/h will survive. At 50km/h, nine out of 10 pedestrians struck will die.
"In-vehicle technologies that can detect pedestrians ahead, activate braking earlier and so shorten vehicle stopping distances, show considerable promise, not only in avoiding collisions but by reducing injury risk through lower impact speeds when collisions do occur," said Corben.