Honda works to prevent vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents

  • Image: Honda V2P phone.JPG
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Image: Honda V2P demo.JPG

A pedestrian receives audible and visual alerts via a DSRC-enabled cell phone during Honda's demonstration of vehicle-to-pedestrian safety technologies.

A distracted pedestrian approaches an intersection as a car traveling 35 mph (56 km/h) heads toward the crosswalk. But instead of a vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) collision, the pedestrian’s dedicated short range communications (DSRC)-enabled smartphone blasts a repeating, high-volume beep and sends a visual alert to the cell phone screen.

An audible warning and a visual “brake” message via the vehicle’s head-up display and navigation screen alert the driver to a possible collision.

The above scenario unfolded as an Acura TL equipped with DSRC wireless technology (in the 5.9-GHz band) detected the pedestrian, who was carrying a DSRC-enabled smartphone during a recent safety demonstration for media.

“We’re still in the research stage with this project, so these are experimental units. But this V2P demonstration is an indication of where we see the future of safety going,” Jim R. Keller, Honda R&D America’s Senior Manager and Chief Engineer for Automobile Technology Research, told SAE Magazines as several V2P scenarios unfolded on a rooftop parking lot in Detroit.

A proprietary smartphone application, GPS data, and algorithms are used to determine the location and direction of both the pedestrian and the vehicle, the speed of the approaching vehicle, as well as the likelihood that the walker is in a distracted state (i.e., texting or talking on the cellphone) and a V2P collision is possible.

Honda and Qualcomm independently developed the technologies for the V2P demonstration with Honda handling vehicle aspects and Qualcomm working on phone-related aspects.

According to Chris Borroni-Bird, Vice President of Strategic Development for San Diego, CA-headquartered Qualcomm Inc., “The research on V2P has, so far, focused on the feasibility of using existing phone hardware to enable the functionality. Moving forward, some key challenges will be to enhance the algorithms to reduce false positives and to integrate DSRC with other sensors—camera, radar—on the vehicle-side.”

Honda engineers are also using DSRC technology to avert potential vehicle-to-motorcycle (V2M) collisions, including instances when the motorcycle is obstructed from a vehicle driver’s view. The system, which is being researched and tested in cooperation with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, provides audible and visual alerts to the vehicle driver.

One of the underlying research issues, according to Keller, is how alerts are communicated to a driver.

“The human-machine interface is going to be key to all of this, whether the potential incidents involve a motorcycle, another vehicle, or a pedestrian. How you communicate information in a non-distracting manner but still give the right information at the right time so that action can be taken is critical,” Keller said.

Driver-distraction research is crucial to putting all the pieces together.

Researchers are using information gleaned from driver simulation lab studies in Japan and the U.S. The newest facility, which opened in October 2012 at The Ohio State University, features three different stations with the primary simulation lab featuring a 2010 Honda Accord buck mounted to a six-axis platform.

As the driver views a highway and its surroundings via a 260° screen, three eye-tracking cameras enable researchers to see where the driver’s eyes are focused and for how long. Researchers impose various distractions, such as having the driver talk on a cell phone as well as having the driver text from a cell phone.

Steven Feit, Senior Manager and Chief Engineer for Infotainment Technology at Honda R&D Americas, noted that The Ohio State University lab researchers include cognitive scientists and psychologists.

“By having our engineers do joint research with these individuals, we’re getting additional perspectives and that really helps us understand the visual, auditory, cognitive, and psychomotor issues associated with distracted driving,” Feit said in an SAE Magazines interview.

According to Art St. Cyr, Vice President of Auto Operations, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., the automaker’s commitment to safety is fundamental to its corporate philosophy. “Our approach to safety is shaped by our view that as a manufacturer of different types and sizes of motor vehicles, we have a responsibility to share the road,” he said.

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