,Beyond ensuring car passenger safety, carmakers are now working harder to protect pedestrians using cameras and radars. — dpa
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The occupants of modern cars are protected by numerous airbags and other safety advances in the event of a crash, but what if you're a nearby cyclist or pedestrian? Technology is now addressing the need to protect them too.
In the past, the pedestrian protection provided by cars was exclusively passive – the so-called crumple zone. Now cars are using cameras and radar sensors to warn drivers about the locations of pedestrians, ideally preventing an accident happening at all.
“Pedestrian detection with emergency braking function” is the name of this system, which is now part of the standard equipment of almost all new vehicles.
What used to be an expensive extra is now standard because without it new cars won't get the coveted five stars in the Euro-NCAP vehicle safety test.
Many manufacturers combine this feature with other advances, such as systems that recognise objects on the road, such as a cyclist or a deer, and help the driver to achieve the correct steering angle to avoid hitting them.
Other assistants for pedestrian protection are primarily aimed at improving visibility in the dark. For example, the French brands Peugeot, Citroën, and DS use infrared cameras with special image recognition and show relevant objects on the display.
Other manufacturers such as Audi program their intelligent headlights in such a way that pedestrians at the edge of the road are specifically illuminated at night in order to warn the driver that they're there.
If, despite all the electronic foresight and warnings, there is contact between the car and a person, passive pedestrian protection takes effect. This is anchored in the design and construction of the vehicles, says Mercedes spokesman Koert Groeneveld.
For example, there's the soft foam-backed radiator grille, which is called a "soft nose" in industry jargon.
In addition, the height of the bonnet and the edges of the fenders are calculated and tested with crash test dummies so that the impact on the human body is reduced and serious injuries avoided as much as possible.
Many manufacturers are now installing pyrotechnics under the bonnet to raise it a little in the event of a pedestrian impact, thus reducing the unyielding engine block's impact. Some models also have airbags on the outside of the bonnet and in front of the windscreen.
A comparatively new technology in pedestrian protection is the sound generator, which is aimed at making otherwise silent electric vehicles easier to hear. This consists of loudspeakers built into the car that emit a defined warning tone.
According to European Union regulations, the tone only has to be audible up to around 20km/h as after that speed the tyres generate enough noise.