In a collision between a car and a bicycle, the car is going to win every time. While several automakers have emergency braking or cruise control systems that can recognize other vehicles ahead, some can also identify cyclists, including the system from Volvo.
The system, called Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake, is able to identify the unique shape of someone on a bicycle ahead of the car. “It’s a camera and radar-based system,” says Martin Magnusson, senior engineer and function developer for Volvo Cars in Sweden. “It uses a camera to detect the bicycle and cyclist, and then it uses radar to confirm the detection. It will look for the characteristics of a human being, the head, arms and legs, and then it also detects that there is a bicycle.” The system uses Volvo’s Auto Brake, which will automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes if it detects an imminent collision, and the driver ignores a warning and doesn’t hit the brakes. At lower speeds, it can stop the car before it hits something.
At higher speeds, the car might not have enough time to stop completely, but the impact speed will be reduced. The chance of serious injury or death skyrockets as speed increases. It’s estimated that a pedestrian hit by a car going 32 km/h has a five per cent chance of being killed, but if the car is going 64 km/h, the risk of fatality increases to 85 per cent.
“The system constantly monitors the traffic situation and does what we call select assessment,” Magnusson says. “It’s a threat evaluation, (to see if) it’s a dangerous situation or not. When there is a high risk of a collision with a bicycle, the system will warn with a red flashing light in the windshield and a warning sound. If the driver doesn’t react, the system will automatically brake the vehicle.”
Developing the system wasn’t easy, since it has to be able to detect cyclists no matter what they are wearing, and in rain or bright sunshine. The system can also pick out motorcycles. At the moment, it can only detect cyclists that are riding in front of the car in the same direction, but engineers are working on identifying cyclists that ride across the car’s path. In future, the system may also be able to identify and stop for large animals. “We are constantly looking at new scenarios where people can be injured or killed, and we can work to add them,” Magnusson says. According to CAA, some 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured in crashes each year in Canada, most of them during the afternoon rush hour.
The majority of cyclist deaths occur at intersections with lights or other traffic controls.
Launch. Volvo launched its vehicle detection system in 2006, and added pedestrian detection, a more complex system, in 2010.
Stats. According to CAA, some 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured in crashes each year in Canada, most of them during the afternoon rush hour.
Deadly locations. The majority of cyclist deaths occur at intersections with lights or other traffic controls.