Ford has announced a new "pre-collision assist" system that takes advantage of data from radar and cameras to actively detect pedestrians and automatically apply the brakes to avoid or at least reduce the severity of accidents.
A windshield-mounted camera and radar located near the bumper scan the roadway and provide warnings to the driver if a collision risk is detected, and if the driver fails to respond promptly enough, the system can automatically brake, applying full force if necessary.
Semi-automated collision avoidance systems like this one, as well as those developed by Volvo, and more recently Tesla with its new autopilot functions are designed to help reduce the dangerous impacts of distracted driving, though it seems just as easy to argue that these kind of assistive technologies may actually enable even more bad driving habits. Both Elon Musk and Ford stress that systems like pre-collision assist are not meant to replace the driver. Ford notes that its system has limitations that include "nighttime, low and harsh lighting conditions, vehicles moving in a different direction and certain weather conditions."
Ford says its engineers tested the system and closed tracks using rigs fitted with mannequins under a variety of different conditions.
“This real-world testing was an important part of the development, because pedestrians in an urban setting can present a wide range of potential situations,” said Ford's Scott Lindstrom. “We covered more than 300,000 miles on three continents that included a wide range of settings and situations.”
The system will first debut as an option on the 2015 Ford Mondeo in Europe this year before expanding to other models and markets.
See a demonstration of the technology in the video below from Ford.