• Aug 28, 2013
Using a new warning system developed by Honda, a pedest... Using a new warning system developed by Honda, a pedestrian is warned of an impending collision with a car. (Honda)
There's a pedestrian approaching a crosswalk. He's focused on his iPhone, oblivious to the fact he's walking into danger.

We're driving down the street. There's a minivan parked alongside the curb, obscuring the view of the sidewalk. We're oblivious to the fact we're moments away from tragedy.

The pedestrian steps out in front of the car. The brakes lock and the tires squeal.

Had this been an everyday scenario, the pedestrian might have joined the more than 4,400 pedestrians killed on U.S. roads annually. Instead, an experimental safety system developed by Honda alerts both the driver and pedestrian of the impending crisis.

Sufficiently warned, the car screeches to a stop before the crosswalk and the pedestrian recoils.

Honda demonstrated the vehicle-to-pedestrian warning system Wednesday in Detroit, touting it as one of numerous safety technologies the company is working on to decrease the number of deaths on American roads.

"We have a responsibility to share the road, and that includes with pedestrians," said Art St. Cyr, Honda vice president of product planning and logistics. " ... This is the next frontier for road safety."

Honda V2P And V2M Safety Demonstration

The technology is in its infancy and not yet available to everyday drivers. But there are many companies studying such technology, as well as the federal government, and the Honda demonstration provided a glimpse at the not-too-distant future of advanced safety technology.

Here's how it works: The system uses a Dedicated Short Range Communications band already approved by the Federal Communications Commission and incorporates GPS functions. The pedestrian has an app on his phone that transmits his location. Together, the technologies can determine whether pedestrians are in danger of being struck by an oncoming car.

The system then flashes warnings on a dashboard-mounted screen to the driver and alerts the pedestrian via cell phone that a collision is imminent. It updates positions approximately 10 times per second.

Honda says it is better than similar radar-based systems because its technology does not require direct line of sight –- it can sense pedestrians that lurk behind obstructions, like parked cars.

There's one big caveat. Users must have the software installed. For pedestrians, that means having an app enabled on a properly-equipped cell phone.

The technology is nonetheless promising. Pedestrian deaths have been rising in recent years, even as the overall number of traffic fatalities has stayed near historic lows. In 2009, 4,109 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. In 2010, the number crept up to 4,280 and it increased further to 4,432 in 2011.

A massive vehicle-to-vehicle communications system experiment is underway at the University of Michigan, where researchers are testing 3,000 cars on the road in the Ann Arbor, Mich., area.

Honda's research in vehicle-to-pedestrian and vehicle-to-motorcycle communications systems are based on the same basic platform, "but take it one step further," says Richard Pham, senior product planner.

Honda showcased a similar experiment with motorcycles, demonstrating how the short-range communication system alerted a car beginning a right turn to the presence of a motorcycle obstructed by a large van.

A warning system flashed a picture of a motorcycle on a dash-mounted screen seconds before it came into view.

Experts say motorcycle-related death are rising. Approximately 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2012, according to Government Highway Safety Association projections, and they constitute 14.7 percent of all traffic fatalities.

"Vehicle communication technology is needed to realize a collision-free car," said Jim Keller, chief engineer and senior manager of Honda's automobile technology research. "It's this area that we believe the next big steps can be made."

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      Rosie
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'd be interested to know, if Experts say motorcycle-related deaths constitute 14.7 percent of all traffic fatalities, what per cent of people "on the road" are motorcyclists.
      xgomazx
      • 1 Year Ago
      There is a way. You just have to come up with an electonic gizmo jammer. When people can no longer hear their MP3s or text they will look at something else. Maybe even like looking both ways before crossing the street. Running a person over with a car might be against the law. but that law doesnt trump the laws of physics. And when 2,000 Lbs of steel meets 200 lbs of flesh and bone. It never ends well for flesh and bone
      Buckingham's
      • 1 Year Ago
      There is NO alarm that will make people put away their damn idiotic cell phones.That has to be left up to the damn idiotic, self-important people who walk out in front of cars while yakking away on their cell phones.
      jokinok1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Your car comes to a screeching halt. 10 cars behind you ram into you, but the stupid pedestrian is safe. What an excellent idea.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I full agree that pedestrian injuries and deaths are a problem. But you must have an APP on your cell/text/MP3 to warn you off a pending problem. What happened to taking responsibility for yourself. My mother taught me to look both ways before crossing a street. Is the new teaching, cross and then worry when you hear the tires scream? If you cannot see a car, the driver cannot see you. But if this new system is put into action, the pedestrian and driver will both get notices of an pending accident. The pedestrian will still not want to interrupt the call or texting because they are too busy to be aware of the warning. Ditto with driver. Perhaps there should be horns, sirens and flashing lights with automatic braking. People should take responsibility for themselves.
      whiteoak
      • 1 Year Ago
      real effective man steps of curb with cell phone jammed in this ear,steps out in front of car ,, brakes jam,tires scream, horn blows man ***** himself making more mess for EMT's to have to clean up...LOL
      SteveFx
      • 1 Year Ago
      Call it the idiot saver. But how are we going to thin the herd?
      eulerckt
      • 1 Year Ago
      Reducing pedestrian injuries is simple. For the driver who fails to yield, make him/her/either/neither/both financially responsible for resulting medical care or the funeral. For jay-walkers or people who habitually ignore traffic, or walk behind moving vehicles in parking lots...I hope it hurts.
      arenadood
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ok, who gets Blamed or Sued if the system fails and someone dies?
      • 1 Year Ago
      You can't stop the idiots out there who must text, listen and talk on their cell phones instead of paying attention to their environment. I have had to stop in the middle of the street to avoid hitting some person who decided to jaywalk then not pay attention to where they are.
      impactvqi
      • 1 Year Ago
      a pedestrian walks out in front of your vehicle, and your vehicle comes to a complete stop, who will be responsible for the vehicle that just slammed into your vehicle from behind, that had no warning
      keech7
      • 1 Year Ago
      We all can solve the problem. Tell all your friends to look both ways before crossing the street. Haven't we heard that somewhere before? I can see it now, teenagers start playing games with cars by stepping out just to lock up the brake system. But they get hit by a car without the system. Does it get to a point where the government blames the car makers and owners for not having the systems installed? Just another cost added to the vehicles by people that don't pay attention to where they are walking.