Collision course

A European research consortium is poised to carry out the first full-scale test of a multi-technology sensor system designed to allow cars to detect impending collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

The SAVE-U project (Sensors and system architecture for vulnerable road users protection) aims to make it possible for cars to warn drivers of an impending collision, automatically brake or deployprotection systems designed to reduce injuries.

European regulations due to come into force from next year will require car makers to improve crash protection for pedestrians.

SAVE-U’s research could make possible ‘active bonnets’ which would lift in the instant before an impact, providing the crush space without altering the styling. This could go some way to satisfying the regulatory demands if – and it is a big if – the European Commission were to accept such an approach.

SAVE-U will combine data from three separate sensors – radar, infrared and a camera-based vision system – in an effort to be reliable in all weathers and lighting conditions.

For the project to succeed, it will have to improve significantly on current sensor performance, as well as reducing false positives by afactor of 10.

The consortium has already produced a radar sensor prototype with significantly improved sensitivity. The vision system will incorporate a database of images of real situations from which the sensors will be able to ‘learn’.

The test, to be held in two weeks, will show whether the complete system will reliably detect pedestrians and cyclists in laboratory conditions. The system will use a radar network of four or fivesingle-beam 24GHz radar sensors with overlapping detection areas. Colour and infrared vision systems will generate a vertical view of atarget area 8m wide and stretching 30m in front of the car.

Data will be combined at two levels. Raw data will be shared to focus attention on an area of interest within the detection zone as early as possible. More detailed information will then confirm whether an object is a pedestrian or not. This will all take place five times a second.

The system is being designed to be effective at up to 40kph.If the test is successful, the next stage of the project, which runs till next February, will be to fit the system to two demonstrator cars and test it in real-time.

Partners in SAVE-U are Faurecia, a supplier of automotive front-end modules; Siemens VDO Automotive (radar expertise); CEA (infra-red sensors); MIRA; and DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen.