Artificial vision system locates pedestrians in front of vehicles

Researchers in Europe have developed a system that locates pedestrians in front of the vehicle using artificial vision.

Soon to be integrated into Mercedes vehicles, the device includes two cameras and a unit that process information supplied in real time by all image points.

‘The new system can detect pedestrians from within vehicles using visible spectrum cameras, and can do so even at night,’ said David Fernández Llorca, a lecturer at Alcalá University who worked with colleagues from Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics on the project.

According to a statement, the newest feature of the device is the use of a dense stereo system where two cameras, 30cm apart, are placed in a structure below the rear-view mirror.

‘Human beings are able to make out the distance and depth of objects thanks to our two eyes — the same occurs with artificial vision,’ said Fernández Llorca.

He added that the system is called ‘dense’ because it collects this information from all the points making up each one of the images that the cameras capture.

When information is collected from just some points, whether they may be very characteristic (like the edges or corners of an object), the term ‘non-dense’ is used.

Dense stereo vision allows for a much more precise real-time recognition of the surroundings in front of the vehicle (the shape of the road, the presence of pot holes and variations in contact between the vehicle and the road).

It is claimed that pedestrian recognition is improved by a factor of up to 7.5 compared with non-dense systems. Animate objects can be detected in less than 200 milliseconds, such as a child who suddenly runs across the road.

The two cameras are connected to a processing unit that executes the artificial vision algorithm. The hardware has taken years to develop and is based on field-programmable gate array technology. 

Images can be seen live on a screen with ‘heads-up displays’ (front transparent screen) or through projections on the inner side of the windscreen.

Different response elements can also be added to warn or assist the driver. These include alarms that warn of the presence of a pedestrian, brake activation systems and devices that take control of the wheel to avoid knocking someone down.

Class C Mercedes vehicles currently have single camera systems to detect special objects, such as road signs. Other manufacturers such as Toyota have also announced that they will soon launch pedestrian detection stereo systems onto the market.