A fear of the dark is a human phobia going back thousands of years, if experts can be believed, originating with our cave-dwelling ancestors who feared animal attacks after the sun set.
Not much has changed today – many people (of all ages) still feel that primeval fear when darkness falls, even if it usually concerns other people rather than sabre-toothed tigers. For some, that fear solidifies when they get behind the wheel, worrying about night blindness, hitting pedestrians or getting into an accident.
To counter this, auto companies are developing warning systems that work just as effectively at night – take Volvo’s City Safety system, which can identify hazards on the road after dark. Ford has been working on similar technology, and is introducing a system that can detect pedestrians at night and automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t appear to respond.
Pedestrian Detection uses radar technology in the bumper and a camera mounted on the windshield to scan the road ahead, comparing what it sees to a digital bank of “pedestrian-shaped” images in order to distinguish people from trees or other objects. If the driver doesn’t pay any heed to the audible and visual warnings, the car will take matters into its own hands and deploy the brakes.
The system was tested at night on closed tracks using dummies in the vehicles’ path, and public roads in European cities like Amsterdam and Paris. The technology will be introduced in Europe as part of the 2018 Ford Fiesta.
“We know some drivers find hitting the road at night a stressful experience. Especially driving in towns and cities, pedestrians – sometimes distracted by mobiles – can without warning step into the road, leaving even alert drivers very little time to avoid an accident,” said Gregor Allexi, active safety engineer with Ford of Europe. “Day and night, Pedestrian Detection is designed to help identify people already in – or about to step into – the road ahead.”