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Artificial ‘Eyes’ Stop Mercedes Cars Squishing Pedestrians

Just as well really. You know why they say Mercedes indicator bulbs last so long? Well, when did you last see one being used?


A team of German researchers, with the help of a lecturer at the University of Alcalá (UAH, Spain), has developed a system that locates pedestrians in front of a vehicle using artificial vision. Soon to be integrated into the top-of-the-range Mercedes vehicles, the device includes two cameras and a unit that process information supplied in real time by all image points.

"The new system can detect pedestrians from within vehicles using visible spectrum cameras and can do so even at night", tells SINC David Fernández Llorca, lecturer at the University of Alcalá (UAH).

The newest feature of the device is the use of a dense stereo system. The term 'stereo' refers to the use of two cameras, which are 30 cm apart in a structure below the rear-view mirror. "Human beings are able to make out the distance and depth of objects thanks to our two eyes – the same occurs with artificial vision," states the researcher.

The two cameras are connected to a processing unit that executes the artificial vision algorithm. The complex hardware has taken years to develop and is based on FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) technology – an electronic system with logic blocks which can be configured on-site using specialised language.

Images can be seen live on a screen with 'heads-up displays' (front transparent screen) or through projections on the inner side of the windscreen. Different response elements can also be added to warn or assist the driver. These include alarms that warn of the presence of a pedestrian, break activation systems and even devices that take control of the wheel to avoid knocking someone down.

"It is possible that we will see this pedestrian recognition system very shortly in the new, top-of-the-range Mercedes models," says Fernández Llorca. But, he recognises that the last word "will depend on business issues" as many decisions need to be made before we can implement it into the production chain.

Source: FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

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