• Sep 27th 2010 at 3:00PM
  • 51
Volvo V60 Pedestrian Detection test failures – Click above to watch the videos

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").

Volvo officials themselves cautioned... that the system may not always detect the dummy's presence.
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.

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]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      "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."

      I assume the engineers have thought about this, but... would the system recognize TWO humans walking close together? After all, they would have 4 legs, like an animal in the road.

      With all the "works, unless..." caveats, it seems that Volvo has a lot of work to do before they implement this in a production car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This system IS available in a production car. The new S60 which I /think/ is available for orders in the US right now. The V60 pictured will not be brought to NA, but will be available for orders in Europe very soon.

        Also the sister feature 'City Safety' is already available on XC60 since its introduction last year.

        This is already production tech. Also I'm pretty sure BMW and Mercedes are working on/already selling their own systems that perform the same functions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't see any reason for it to be under scrutiny for occasionally failing.
      It's a non required safety feature and a very tricky bit of engineering.
      To hold it to 100% success rate is crazy.

      Say it was released into production in a state where it only worked 60% of the time.
      Is it really such a massively bad thing that equipped vehicles would now hit people through driver error in 60% fewer instances?
      It would be a tremendous success, especially for anyone in that group who avoided being hit.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Right now it is 100% kill rate for pedestrians who either surpise the driver or the driver makes an error or otherwise does not have time to or simply does not react properly.
        It is not a starter which needs to function 100% of the time.
        It is an additive safety device which currently is not in place so 100% of the time the pedestrian is struck.
        So - a 60% reduction in those strikes would not just be OK - but incredible.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Acutally, yes, it's a foolish idea to release it if it only works 60% of the time.

        Suppose your starter only worked 60% of the time. You'd only get to work 3 days of the week.

        Or, suppose your MP3 player only worked 60% - you'd only get the first 2 minutes of each song.

        Or maybe your trans only worked 60%, and you never got out of 3rd gear.

        For cars, we should expect 99%, at a bare minimum. And even then, that's a small number when you talk about individual pedestrians day by day.

        City drivers can see 100+ pedestrians cross in front of them every day. At a 99% failure rate, that's 1 pedestrian hit each day. Not good.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Check out this policewoman taking down the Volvo! http://wn.com/present_it!_Volvo_in_2011_%7C_drive_it
      • 4 Years Ago
      Perhaps a demonstration using one of their own engineers would better the public's confidence in the system?

      Seriously though, I understand how the system might better recognize a normal person rather than an inflatable dummy, but what about a small child? I don't see why having the system is any worse than not having it at all, but they way they advertise it is as if it'll completely take care of you (and pedestrians) rather than just being there assist you or help you in avoiding a situation.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "the Pedestrian Detection system is trained to look for human movements – arms swaying, legs moving, and so on"

      So what happens when the said pedestrian freezes in the middle of the road from fright - no arms swaying, no legs moving, and so on?
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's when you, the driver, brake.
        • 4 Years Ago
        They die.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If it reacted to things that don't move then it would stop everytime you passed a mailbox, street lamp or tree. It's not fool proof or perfect, that's why you drive the car, not a computer.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, think of all the injured mimes!
        • 4 Years Ago
        The system does not require the pedestrian to be moving. The camera identifies the object as a pedestrian based on the characteristics of the human form. The issue here is that the radar must also detect the object and, unlike an actual human, an air-filled plastic dummy doesn't reflect radar waves well. So an aluminum-covered plastic panel is usually placed inside the dummy to better simulate reflection from a real pedestrian.

        In this instance, the panel was not properly positioned for the test. It had been knocked out of position when the dummy fell over before the test. It was another case of bad demonstration set-up, rather than a system failure.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Talk about embarrassment......
      • 4 Years Ago
      Volvo needs to get back to making cool looking cars,not developing technology most people dont want. It sounds bad, but most people arent too concerned about hitting someone. They think they always paying attention and it wont happen to them, so they are less likely to pay for it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      would a slow moving elderly person appear like a dummy to the car? If so, no help in South Florida.....

      good news though, I can now take my time changing songs and texting, because my car will stop while I am doing something more important than driving....
      • 4 Years Ago
      It seems to me the system has failed to pick up the test dummy because there is no movement that mimics an actual human being. Perhaps the system would be more successful if it had some sort of motion detector or anything that could detect pedestrian presence.

      This is just a silly, wild guess of mine.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Imagine how much a front end collision would cost to repair with all those gizmos up In the bumper! Lol
        • 4 Years Ago
        The laser and camera is mounted at the top of the windscreen. The radar for the adaptive cruise control is mounted in the grill like all cars, however.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "It's a darned shame, but you just know somebody will eventually try to sue them for the system not being 100% effective."

      Exactly. A system like this, in my opinion, has to be tested over and over again so that the chance of failure is near zero, or have a warning decal to allievate blame in the case of a lawsuit. It should be treated like an airbag, and if I remember correctly from a previous article, Mercedes spent thirteen years (!) research and development before being implemented.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I can see Volvo now since the dummy didn't work.

      "We need a volunteer! Any takers?"
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