One Step Ahead of Pedestrians

Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist helps predict distracted “petextrians” movement.

One pedestrian is injured in a motor vehicle crash every eight minutes, a number that’s been on the rise in recent years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has equated this increase in injuries to a global influx of “petextrians” – pedestrians who simultaneously walk and text. This, combined with the rise of distracted driving due to smartphones, created a massive new safety problem for drivers and pedestrians alike.

To combat this prevalent issue, Ford created Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection for the 2017 Ford Fusion. The technology utilizes radar and camera technology to scan the roadway ahead of the vehicle for collision risks. If a risk is detected, the vehicle will provide a visual and audio warning to the driver, along with muting the driver’s audio system. If there is no reaction from the driver to any of these warnings, the technology will apply the vehicle’s full braking power to reduce the severity of, and potentially eliminate, a frontal collision.

“We were startled to see how oblivious people could be of a 4,000-pound car coming toward them,” said Aaron Mills, a Ford safety engineer. “It was a real eye-opener to how distracted people are today.” After becoming aware of this issue, Aaron and his team helped gather a wide variety of test data to create Pre-Collision Assist and to help the vehicle recognize a wide variety of human sizes and shapes.

Along with the safety team utilizing 240 terabytes of test data, we used 12 vehicles and conducted over 500,000 miles of development testing on this technology spanning the world. Through this, Pre-Collision Assist was able to record 3 million scans of roadside objects, vehicles and pedestrians across both highway and non-highway roads.

As of now, the technology only works in daylight and clear weather conditions at speeds up to 50 miles per hour, but testing is currently being conducted to improve the versatility of the technology. Not content with just Pre-Collision Assist, we have also developed a variety of driver-assisting technologies, including lane-keeping assist, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and hands-free parallel and perpendicular parking. While all of this technology is extremely handy, especially in unexpected situations, it of course does not replace the necessity of an alert driver.

The evolution of this new technology marks a bold step forward into the future of autonomy for Ford. By identifying the problem that petextrians pose to drivers and creating a new technology to combat and prevent this issue, we have reaffirmed our commitment to making the roads safer for everyone.

“We were startled to see how oblivious people could be of a 4,000-pound car coming toward them. It was a real eye-opener to how distracted people are today.”