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Preventing Pedestrian Accidents with Detection Technology

Preventing Pedestrian Accidents with Detection Technology

Auto, Aviation & Transportation

Pedestrian fatalities have “risen a staggering 58%” from 2013 to 2023, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The research is alarming. Fortunately, technology offers solutions. These advancements are quickly implemented as technology continues to evolve. And it is more than exciting marketing opportunities – it will save lives. 

Vehicles and infrastructure are the main areas of technological pedestrian safety realization. Vehicles are increasingly developing characteristics for comfort and driving ease. Along with those developments, vehicular safety features autonomously protect pedestrians when human detection fails. 

Driver-Assistance Systems

Pedestrian accidents are caused by failures to yield, speed, inattention, and impaired driving. Driver-Assistance Systems (DAS) are an umbrella that covers a host of safety technologies. Pedestrian Detection (PD) alerts the driver and activates the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system before striking pedestrians or objects. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) instantaneously “sees” the environment, identifying people, other vehicles, signals, and all manner of objects. 

Studies by the American Automobile Association found that DAS assistant systems can significantly reduce pedestrian fatalities. Unfortunately, at this point of development, these systems may have trouble in low-light conditions. And if pedestrians unexpectedly dart into traffic, the systems may fail to react in time. 

Intelligent Infrastructure

In the past, street and road infrastructure became safer with signals, signs, and painted lines. The next steps forward are with embedded smart devices. While traffic lights were mechanically controlled, electronic controls have developed but cannot react to pedestrian activity. Already in the process today, smart crosswalks detect pedestrian movements, allowing for in-real-time traffic signal adjustments. To some extent, many crosswalks currently interact with pedestrians with timers, sound signals, and countdown clocks. In the near future, sensor data will seamlessly integrate with intersections, vehicles, and pedestrians. 

LiDAR – Seeing the Road and Pedestrians

Light Detection and Ranging systems (LiDAR) are promising technologies for pedestrian and object detection. These systems bounce pulsing lasers into the environment. The pulses, like radar, reflect from objects, vehicles, and pedestrians. The return pulses are accurately measured and processed, creating a three-dimensional image. 

The cycle of pulses and returns, measurements, and processed images is constant. In this manner, moving objects, like people, are easily detected. Detecting pedestrians and the adjacent terrain works well in adverse conditions. The process allows for quick, autonomous reactions, avoiding accidents.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI with machine learning creates a dynamic that enhances and refines inputs to increase pedestrian detection. Like a learning supervisor, AI algorithms comprehend, anticipate potential danger, and react based on learned experience and initial experience-based programming. For example, AI understands pedestrians walking or running and can determine when to brake. 

AI is the future of the “Internet of Things.” That includes intelligent intersections, vehicles, and crosswalks; every device in use, and those not yet imagined, will be AI coordinated.

V2X Communication

Vehicle-To-Everything (V2X) communicates with infrastructure (smart crosswalks) and other similarly equipped vehicles. Once most vehicles become V2X equipped, a technological revolution takes place. The sharing of information means individual vehicles act in concert with others. For pedestrian safety, this information-sharing optimizes when vehicles share pedestrian locations and activities in front, to the sides, and behind – evading pedestrian injury and fatality.

The Road Ahead

Despite the advances, the current challenges slow Driver-Assistance Systems (DAS) development. But expect a quick pace as the technology’s hurdles come down. Pedestrian accident prevention is an urgent cause; injuries and fatalities must decline. In 2021, in the state of Oklahoma alone there were 771 pedestrian accidents, resulting in 104 deaths.

Pedestrian accident prevention advances demand collaboration between policymakers, infrastructure developers, and automakers. With regulatory standardization, data privacy must move forward. Public education is much needed to further advance pedestrian safety awareness. Pedestrian fatalities will become rare in the future. 

Preventing Pedestrian Accidents with Detection Technology