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Avoiding Traffic Crashes with High-Tech Cameras
Photo via Continental.

A stereo camera incorporated into the car's braking system will recognize pedestrians in time to prevent serious road injuries. Photo via Continental.

Continental, the Germany-based international automotive components supplier, developed a stereo camera as a component of its braking system. The camera recognizes pedestrians and prevents serious road injuries. The company hopes that this new device will help prevent or at least reduce the seriousness of the frequent crashes involving pedestrians.

EMBARQ, the producer of this blog, recognizes the profound benefits that information technology can bring to the future of sustainable urban mobility. “Information technology can create more efficient vehicles, better integrated transport systems, and can offer online and telepresence solutions which avoid the need for travel altogether,” according to one of the six main recommendations outlined in the report, “Megacities on the Move,” produced in collaboration with EMBARQ, Vodafone and the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society.

But as EMBARQ Senior Transport Engineer Dario Hidalgo cautions, ““It’s difficult to predict how technology will progress, so it’s important to focus on people first. The most important goal should be to change human behavior, so that we avoid unnecessary car use and shift to the most efficient modes, such as walking, cycling and mass transit.” In short, high-resolution stereo cameras are a great example of road safety technology, but to tackle the root of the problem, people should do their best to avoid vehicle miles traveled altogether in order to significantly reduce the risk of traffic crashes.

ALL-SEEING EYE

The camera created by Continental can detect every obstacle in the vehicle’s path and can determine the size of the obstacle, as well as the distance to the vehicle, thanks to the system’s high-resolution cameras. The stereo camera has two high-resolution Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) mono-cameras that are placed 20 centimeters apart. This system is significant because the stereo camera system can measure the height of the object from the road surface, which is made possible by the differences in the perspective between the left-hand and right-hand optical paths, according to the press release. “In other words, the stereo camera’s analyzing electronics exploit the same effect that gives humans spatial vision, i.e. the parallax shift between two images.”

Photo via Continental.

The two high-resolution CMOS mono-cameras work together to recognize objects in the vehicle's path. Photo via Continental.

Another significant aspect of the technology is its ability to capture high-resolution images, even in difficult circumstances, like when objects are in close proximity to each other, when objects are partially obscured or when there is poor contrast between the object and its background. The system’s dual optical paths also help in enhancing the reliability of the data by comparing over-imposed and redundant images. And finally, the optical paths support one another in conditions of poor visibility, such as dusk or heavy rain.

As impressive as the high-resolution cameras may sound, the system’s most impressive quality is its six-dimensional analysis that can not only predict objects in the path of the vehicle but also the direction in which they are moving. “[The stereo camera] can determine the direction in which every pixel of an identified object is moving along the horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal axes. This six-dimensional (6-D) identification makes absolutely clear whether an object is moving and in which direction,” the press release explains. The ability to predict the movement of objects loans a very high standard of decision-making certainty to this new technology. In fact, the press release explains that the vehicle can initiate emergency braking up to one gravitational force, if the driver fails to react to an object in the vehicle’s path. This means that the system’s predictive measurements can pinpoint the exact point at which impact may occur and make the best use of the remaining time to prepare appropriate protective measures.

This technology comes at an important time. According to the press release, crashes that involve vehicle and pedestrian collisions or vehicle-to-vehicle collisions in intersections make up 46.6 percent of traffic accidents in Germany. Such accidents result in major personal injury and demand crash prevention methods that can monitor a vehicle’s surroundings, acting as a second pair of eyes for the driver.

“What is expected of our accident prevention and avoidance systems is that, instead of prioritizing obstacles, they should be able to help in every hazardous situation,” said Dr. Andreas Brand, head of passive safety at Continental’s Chassis and Safety Division. “This means we must look for new ways of monitoring a vehicle’s surroundings.”

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