In collisions with vehicles, pedestrians typically have far less chances to survive than vehicle than vehicle occupants. A technology developed by the University of Kassel (Germany) aims at improving the situation by establishing a radio-based warning system.
Available pedestrian detection systems installed in cars typically are based on optical, infrared or radar technologies and hence require a line-of-sight connection between vehicle and pedestrian. Thus, these systems have the disadvantage that they do not detect pedestrians hidden between, say roadside parking vehicles or behind corners.
The technology developed by the Kassel University scientists does away with this problem. The pedestrian is carrying a mobile phone with integrated sensors for movement vectors. Speed and direction of the pedestrian are detected and combined with context and profile data such as age of the person, acceleration and the like.
These data are transmitted to any vehicles in a distance of some 70 meters. An electronic subsystem in the vehicle – perhaps in the navigation system – receives and processes the data. If a collision is probable it issues a warning or even activates the brakes. At the same time, the pedestrian's device also issues a warning.
The technology has been patented and the research team currently is looking for partners to commercialize it. Not part of the research work was the transmission technology to be used, explained team member Alexander Flach. “There are several options, ranging from 3G mobile radio to Bluetooth,” Flach said.
The most likeliest candidate would be WLAN technology which is already used for car-2-car communication and car-to-infrastructure communication systems. Bluetooth is not the obvious technology, Flach said, since current Bluetooth versions are limited with regard to connection establishment speed and range.
An intelligent context filter detects which pedestrians will likely enter the road
It sounds like this would result in "entitled pedestrians," who assume that since they have the phone spraying the surrounding area with avoidence waves, that the cars will stop. This does seem very, very silly. I have an idea.... Make pedestrians use sidewalks and crosswalks. And perhaps they can even pay attention to the crossing signals!
Well, our mobile operators would be handed yet another opportunity to bill us for services, if 3G mobile radio is chosen as the air interface for the system.
I really can't tell how useful this technology will be, but I imagine it will make more sense for a driver than a pedestrian. A pedestrian walking outdoors is aware of where moving cars are (on the road). However, a driver would be happy to get real-time information of the location of pedestrians as he drives along.
Nevertheless, I am sure along the way the persistent issues of privacy will surface to aggravate the adoption of this technology.
This does seem like a bit of overkill, when the real problem is people texting, web surfing, or otherwise being preoccupied with their mobile device while walking...when they should be paying attention to their surroundings.
On the other hand, I think phoenixdave's idea has some merit. But instead of pedestrian-to-pedestrian avoidance, let's just make it pedestrian-to-any-object avoidance. For those who can't be bothered to pay attemtion to where they're walking while they text, the system could warn them, for example, that they are about to have a collision with a parked car!
Have you ever walked the streets of a big city during rush hour? Like New York City, or Los Angeles downtown? Perhaps there is also a market for a "pedestrian-to-pedestrian" avoidance system. Or maybe not... it's actually fun to watch people talking on cell phones running into each other....
I think it will be beneficial for the pedestrians. But I also think Government should work with these developers and make sure every pedestrians gets it at a subsidized rate. And it must be made mandatory like health and other minimum necessities.
Didn't your mother teach you to look both ways before crossing the street? Do we really want these people in the gene pool? I certainly don't want my brakes applied because some autonomous system thinks some bone head might walk into the path of my car. What a waste of research dollars. That is money better spent on something that will benefit more people like cancer research.
Alerts to pedestrians could be very useful (especially for those of us who visit the UK from the USA and have close encounters with vehicles coming the "wrong" way on the street). The system must be designed to differentiate walking along the side of the road from stepping out into the road. Obviously sidewalks are in close proximity to the traffic lanes and only a brief interval separates starting across the street from the time of danger. Perhaps the direction of travel (parallel to traffic or perpendicular) will prove to be the best cue to trigger warnings. The ultimate challenge is to avoid false alarms. If the alarms keep triggering inappropriately ("crying wolf"); people will soon learn to ignore them and then miss the important alerts. Finally, the system must be designed to get the alert to the device quickly; a 20 second delay in a text message is tolerable but a 20 second delay in this alert could be fatal.
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