Volvo’s 2011 S60 will include as an option the company’s latest lifesaving gadget, Pedestrian Detection, which can spot people at up to 160 feet and brake to avoid a collision. When a bumper-mounted radar detects what might be a pedestrian, a camera mounted near the rearview mirror snaps a shot, and an onboard computer compares the photo against a database of 10,000 images in search of telling details—a walker’s swinging arms, for example, or his moving head.
The S60 precharges its brakes, and if the driver fails to respond to an audible alert, the Volvo stops itself. Below 22 mph, the S60 can come to a complete stop before striking a pedestrian; at higher speeds, the vehicle’s speed is sharply reduced. For now, the system has trouble spotting children and animals under 32 inches tall, but Volvo says it will improve the sensitivity so that eventually it will detect dogs, deer and others.