On and off road: inroads for pedestrian detection
The latest must-have car safety feature, pedestrian detection is gradually establishing itself as an essential technology in industrial machinery safety. And its performance is impressive.
We often talk about it with regard to driverless cars, and most of the major brands – Toyota, BMW and Volvo leading the way – already offer it on their premium models. In the future, all cars will be equipped with a detection system for pedestrians, cyclists and animals. A sign that its spread is well under way, Euro NCAP decided to introduce a new test this year to assess the technology’s ability to detect and, using automatic emergency braking, avoid collision.
In industry too…
The technology is also becoming more widely used in industry. This is especially the case in environments where pedestrians work in close proximity to industrial machinery: public infrastructure, recycling, mining, the steel industry… ‘Instead of using standard cameras, more and more companies are now fitting their machinery with reversing sensors. These have the unfortunate downside of alarming for every obstacle. Other options such as badge detectors, the badges needing to be worn by all pedestrians for them to be detected, or our intelligent cameras, which detect only the pedestrian,’ explains Jean-Gabriel Pointeau, Business Manager at Blaxtair, which has just announced a doubling of sales for every year since 2014!
Higher risk and more-serious issues
It has to be said that, in these work environments, the risk of collision is particularly high. This is because of the mobile machinery’s more significant blind spots and its slower speed means pedestrians mistakenly assume that they will be seen during the maneuver. The driver, however, is never fully focused on just driving. Unlike the car driver, the machinery operator has to drive while carrying out an often repetitive task: moving material, loading or unloading a bucket… There is, therefore, a strong need for driving assistance, especially since accidents of this kind can cause serious disruption, or even bring work to a complete stop!
Operating in extreme environments
Fortunately, there are solutions for this. Although we may not always be aware of it, they often benefit from more advanced technology than that used in the car industry. This is mostly owing to the fact that these systems, designed for industrial use, have to be more robust to operate in harsh environments: highly rugged terrain, night and day, in dust, and with extreme temperatures and strong electromagnetic fields.
What’s essential, then, is robustness. But with some providers, it’s the detection technology that has moved forward the most. ‘Unlike in the car industry, where they use 2D, our stereo cameras see in 3D, allowing them to calculate the distance of an obstacle whatever its speed. Concerning the software, our learning algorithm allows us to distinguish a pedestrian from an object, which means we don’t cause endless false alarms for the driver,’ explains Jean-Gabriel Pointeau. This all boils down to a more-efficient man/machine environment… With artificial intelligence, safety and productivity go hand in hand.