Volvo’s City Safety active safety system initially protected against hitting stationary obstacles or other cars, but was then expanded to avoid pedestrians, and again to prevent hitting wildlife. Now the City Safety setup, which can automatically stop a car without the driver’s input in an emergency, can avoid cyclists.
City Safety-equipped Volvos already have the basic hardware setup to support pedestrian and cyclist detection, namely a radar sensor mounted in the front grille and a camera mounted between the windshield and rear-view mirror. It’s a unique setup—most manufacturers tend to choose one type of object detection method or the other: Subaru’s EyeSight is solely camera based, while forward collision warning systems on Mazda, Chrysler, and Ford products (among others) are solely radar-based.
Volvo says that the hybrid setup works to City Safety’s advantage: the radar allows the car’s central control unit to detect moving pedestrians and passengers early on, while the people in question come into focus on the camera and the system’s video processor begins to track them.
It wasn’t much of a leap to move from pedestrian detection to cyclist detection: while the Volvo system with pedestrian detection tries to find and track pedestrians crossing streets or standing on the sidewalk, the cyclist detection can track cyclists in the same lane or alternate lane of traffic. If a cyclist swerves from the edge of the lane into the Volvo’s path, the system can automatically brake or stop the car (if the car is moving at or under 30 mph).
Volvo says that the system has the potential to drastically reduce the number and severity of car-versus-bicycle accidents; the system can avoid many low-speed accidents or reduce the speed of other accidents (hopefully decreasing the cyclist’s injury level). Considering that half of European cyclist deaths involve a car, it’s both a good idea…and a big undertaking.