Honda demonstrated a new safety feature on Wednesday that harnesses the power of the smartphone to see pedestrians where a driver and existing camera sensors may not.
The feature uses dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology to detect the smartphones, which commonly use the same technology. If a pedestrian or cyclist who has a smartphone enters the car’s path, the system flashes a warning on a dash-mounted screen, similar to today’s driver warning systems.
The difference is this system will “see” a pedestrian who is normally out of view—walking around a corner, between cars, or behind a building. Honda is also working on a way to use the same technology to detect motorcyclists.
"While these are still experimental technologies, they provide a strong indication of the future potential for the kinds of advanced collision sensing and predictive technologies Honda is developing to further reduce the potential for serious accidents, injuries and even fatalities," said Honda chief engineer Jim Keller.
Pedestrians could potentially download an application that would warn them of oncoming cars. Honda is working with mobile technology company Qualcomm on the modifications needed for smartphones to work with the system.
Honda is one of several organizations exploring the possibilities of so-called “smart” collision avoidance. General Motors showed a similar system in 2011. The University of Michigan is conducting a 2850-vehicle pilot study on vehicle-to-vehicle technology for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
But most of the systems being studied require some sort of aftermarket transponder. Leveraging smartphones, which people are already used to carrying and which they update far more often than their cars, could hasten the implementation of vehicle-to-person communication.
“With a stand-alone device you need to be concerned about folks checking it on a regular basis to ensure it is charged and operating, whereas most consumers check their smartphones multiple times a day,” says Jim Sayer, a researcher at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.