Testing Volvo’s pedestrian detection

The top five reasons why having a dummy as a friend is beneficial to your life:

5. They listen to everything you say

4. They don’t argue with you

3. They remain neutral on scathing subjects

2. They agree with you when you want them to and

1. They let you use them during a Volvo S60 Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Braking system demonstration – without objection

Meet Bob! I’m not entirely sure if he’s Swedish but the Volvo crest upon his chest and his fair skin are good indications that he could be.

He likes long walks on the beach, romantic comedies and puppies. He’s quite the catch.

We are hanging out together on a beautiful sunny day in an uncrowd-ed parking lot, getting to know one another before I’ll drive toward him at speeds up to 35 kilometres per hour in a Volvo S60, to test out their industry-pioneering Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Braking system.

When asked if he had any objections to participating in my experiment, he remained silent.

Did I mention he’s quite the catch?

Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Braking is a radar-and-camera-based system that can detect pedestrians in front of the car, warn if anyone walks out into its path and automatically activate the car’s full braking power should the driver fail to respond in time making a collision imminent.

The first implementation of this optional feature was found on the all-new 2011 Volvo S60 sport sedan.

With the goal of both commuter and pedestrian safety in mind, the Swedish automaker understands that we are not paying attention 100 per cent of the time to what’s going on around us while in a car. There-fore, they created a system that brings our attention back to what we really should be doing behind the wheel, and that’s driving.

How the system works is via a newly developed radar unit integrated into the car’s grille, a camera fitted in the windscreen near the rear-view mirror and a central control unit.

Working symbiotically, the radar’s job is to detect any object in front of the car and to determine the distance to it. Then the camera deter-mines the type of object.

Keep in mind that the auto-brake system requires that the object be confirmed by both the radar and the camera. And just like the human eye, it “sees” less in poor weather and in the dark. Furthermore, if any of the components are covered in mud, snow or other substances, that too puts limitations on its capabilities. However, the system is smart enough to recognize this and will warn the driver if its vision is impaired.

What can the system detect? Along with pedestrians who are 80 cm tall and upwards, which can include children, it is also programmed to respond to vehicles in front that are at a standstill or that are moving in the same direction as the car fit-ted with the system. This technology, known as City Safety, was originally introduced in the XC60 premium crossover but has made its way into other models in the line-up. That said, should you be distracted by whatever might be going on in the S60, and traffic is coming to a brisk halt, the audible warning will first sound along with a flashing red light that pops up on the wind-screen’s head-up display.

If the driver doesn’t initially respond, the vehicle will then set itself up and pre-charge the brakes. And when the threshold of lack of driver reaction has been passed, the full braking power is automatically applied and will bring the car to a complete stop if going less than 35 km/h.

On paper, the system sounds ideal. But it’s really only when put it into action that it proved its competency.

Bob was at one end of the parking lot. I was at the other.

I accelerated to between 30-35 km/h and aimed straight for him. As instructed by a Volvo representative, I kept my hands on the steering wheel but was told to avoid touching the brakes to let the system do what it needed to do.

Upon approach, the feature warned me audibly, flashed the red lights onto the windshield and then brought the S60 to a stop without me touching the brakes.

It did exactly what it was supposed to do and stopped short of hitting Bob.

He remained in one piece and judging by his facial express, he was unphased. So I repeated the test a few more times. It was quite remarkable. Note, the system needs to be reset each time it has been activated. You can do that by turning the car off and then on.

The conclusion drawn is that the system worked for me and is in place to prevent accidents and danger. It’s meant to complement the driver not substitute for poor driving habits.

Besides, not all Bobs are dummies and neither are the drivers on the road. But sometimes we need a little help from outside sources to refocus our attention and Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection and Full Auto Brake system is there for that.

Contact Alexandra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter.com/cargirlsgarage

Volvo S60 sport sedan testing out the Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Braking system.
Photograph by: Alexandra Straub, for PNG