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Driving at night

This dashboard tech will hit the brakes automatically if there's a pedestrian you haven't seen

Ford introduces tech that automatically brakes for pedestrians at night.

ARE YOU AFRAID or nervous of driving in the dark? Well, you are certainly not alone. Worries over night blindness, and anxiety about hitting someone – or something – top a new poll of night driving fears.

Of 5,030 drivers polled by Ford in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, 81 per cent admit to being scared on the roads at night, rising to 87 per cent for women. More than half say poor night vision is a source of stress, and more than a third worry they might be involved in an accident. Fear of hitting a pedestrian was highlighted by one in five drivers surveyed.

According to the RSA, in 2016 there were 35 pedestrians killed on Irish roads, which accounts for almost 19 per cent of road fatalities that year. Of these deaths, almost 65 per cent occurred in hours of darkness.

However, there is now a technological solution that may help reduce the risk of accidents involving pedestrians after dark. Ford is introducing new technology that is designed to detect pedestrians at night – and then automatically apply the brakes if the driver does not respond to initial warnings.

It is simply called Pedestrian Detection and the system uses a radar housed in the bumper and a camera mounted in the windscreen to “see” pedestrians at night. The camera takes more than 30 photos every second and these images are compared with a database of “pedestrian shapes”, enabling the system to distinguish people from objects such as trees and road signs. The video live-feed and wide viewing angle enables the system to pick out pedestrians, even in low-light conditions, illuminated only by the headlights.

If a camera image matches a pedestrian shape and detects an imminent collision, it uses audible and visual warnings to alert the driver. Should the driver not respond, the system automatically applies the brakes.

Here’s what Gregor Allexi, active safety engineer, Ford of Europe has to say about it:

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.
Day and night, Pedestrian Detection is designed to help identify people already in – or about to step into – the road ahead.

Ford’s original Pedestrian Detection system first appeared in cars in 2015 but it was limited to daytime use. This more advanced night-time Pedestrian Detection technology will be introduced later this year on the new next-gen Ford Fiesta.

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