Night auto-braking saviour for pedestrians

  • Fears rooted in pre-historic caveman past
  • New poll shows drivers fear hitting pedestrians
  • Pedestrian deaths double after dark
PEDESTRIAN LIFE-SAVER: Night driving fears go back to our caveman days. Image: Ford Europes
PEDESTRIAN LIFE-SAVER: Night driving fears go back to our caveman days. Image: Ford Europe

BRENTWOOD, England – It’s not just children who are afraid of the dark. Grown-ups get scared of driving at night.*

Some experts believe fear of the dark, or ncytophobia, can be traced back to our cave-dwelling ancestors who were more at risk of being attacked by predators in the dark.**
Today it affects us behind the wheel.

AUTO-BRAKING

Worries about night-blindness and fear of hitting someone – or something – have topped Ford-commissioned poll about night-driving fears*** and, for the latter at least, there’s now a solution that goes beyond simply eating more carrots.

The company is, for the first time, introducing technology that will detect pedestrians at night and brake the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond to a warning.

Gregor Allexi, Ford Europe’s ‘active safety engineer’, told The Corner in a media release: “We know some drivers find night driving a stressful experience, especially driving in towns and cities. Pedestrians – perhaps distracted on a cellphone – can just step into the road.

“Pedestrian Detection will help to identify a person on – or about to step into – the road ahead.”

400 DEATHS A YEAR

Of thousands of drivers surveyed across Europe, 81% were scared on the road. More than half said poor night vision was a source of stress and more than a third worried they might crash.

Fear of hitting a pedestrian was highlighted by one in five drivers.
In 2015 408 pedestrian were killed in the UK (24% of all road deaths that year), about half of them at night (6pm-6am).*****

How it works
Pedestrian Detection processes information from a radar unit in the front bumper, and a windshield‑mounted camera. A database of “pedestrian shapes” lets the system distinguish people from, say, a tree or road-sign.

The camera delivers more than 30 frames a second.

The tech, Ford Europe says, will be introduced on the next generation Fiesta.
In 2016 a Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle, headlights off, drove in total darkness at the Ford Arizona Proving Ground.

Hacks for driving at night:
Keep windows, headlights and mirrors clean and free of ice or condensation.
Clean all exterior lights, make sure they work, and keep spare bulbs in your car.
Use main-beam headlights on unlit roads, dipping them when approaching or following vehicles.
Don’t drive tired or for more than two hours without a break.
Schedule annual checks with your optician.

* https://www.time4sleep.co.uk/blog/are-you-scared-of-the-dark/
** http://www.glamour.com/story/its-not-just-you-lots-of-adults-are-afraid-of-the-dark
*** Poll conducted by Opinion Matters from a sample of 5030 drivers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Britain.

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