Volvo's new Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake is under scrutiny after a series of demonstrations for journalists in Australia went awry in rather spectacular fashion. During the presentation, an inflatable test dummy was mowed down after the system failed to detect its presence in time to stop. This, despite the fact that the technology was showcased under controlled conditions. The optional hardware, which debuts on the 2011 S60 and V60 wagon, utilizes both radar and camera technology to avoid or mitigate an accident with a pedestrian by automatically slowing the vehicle to either a full stop or at least initiating full braking to lower the rate of impact (Volvo: "The system can avoid a collision at speeds up to 22 mph. At higher speeds, the focus is on reducing the car's speed as much as possible prior to the impact").
According to Aussie motoring website Car Advice, journalists at the demonstration were told by a Volvo spokesperson that the system may have been 'confused' by a tractor-trailer parked around 30 meters behind the dummy, but the subsequent removal of the big rig still saw two more failures resulting in impacts. According to the same report, Volvo noted that "around 650 media participated in the week-long demonstration – with a claimed 99.7 per cent success rate – the nature of the failed 0.3 per cent of runs appears to be undisclosed."
Autoblog had the chance to sample this system firsthand at the Oregon launch of the S60 earlier this month in similar parking lot tests with different dummies. It performed as-advertised for us, though a few other journalists did record failures of their own – though those lapses were evidently at least partially exacerbated by the drivers giving-in to their instinct to tromp on the brake pedal. Interestingly, Volvo officials themselves cautioned us in advance that the system may not always detect the dummy's presence, in part because it doesn't mimic the behavior of a human (the Pedestrian Detection system is trained to look for human movements – arms swaying, legs moving, and so on). In fact, when we asked if the system would also detect and activate when animals are in the road, officials said that the safety feature has not yet been trained to do so – it is only capable of registering bipeds.
As you may recall, this is not the first failure of Volvo's new auto-stop impact avoidance systems. Back in May, we told you about another incident in which an S60's City Safety auto-brake system test resulted in the car plowing into the back of a semi truck. Volvo would apparently later state that the crash was caused by a 'low-voltage event' in the car's electrical system that turned the rear-impact avoidance system off, a flaw that has since been repaired.
Follow the jump to watch videos of the PSD failures as well as an official Volvo video explaining how the system is designed to work.
[Sources: Car Advice, YouTube]