Blind-spot radar and stereo cameras help drivers avoid collisions

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Illustration of how a driver can have multiple blind spots.

Blind-spot radar and stereo camera can guard those blind spots. (Photo Credit: Public domain/World arm lamp/Wikipedia)

Every driver has multiple blind spots; it’s impossible to see everything on the roadway at once. Since 2008, blind-spot radar that can help drivers avoid accidents has been introduced in consumer vehicles to help deal with this safety issue. As Steve Rode, president of Swedish blind-spot radar manufacturer Autoliv Electronics, notes business is booming.

Sales of blind-spot radar have jumped

Since the introduction of blind-spot radar in 2008 through 2011, Autoliv’s sales jumped tenfold. According to Rode, his company produced 1.1 million units worldwide.

“We are going to see very wide adoption,” Rode told Automotive News.

First line of defense

Blind-spot radar and stereo cameras are important new steps in making things safer for drivers and passengers. Collision avoidance is the first line of technological defense against roadway mayhem and injury, with integrated systems that work with adaptive cruise control, night vision cameras and blind-spot detection. When such systems work as intended – and the driver uses reasonable defensive driving techniques – such things as airbags and crumple zones don’t have to come into play.

The rise of stereo cameras

Rode believes that stereo camera technology that can “see” in three dimensions will be the next leap forward for blind-spot radar and collision-avoidance systems. Such cameras will reportedly be able to detect pedestrians, roadway obstructions, roadside barriers and dangerously abrupt lane changes better than any current technology tied to rear cross-traffic detection that is in use.

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Early warning to the driver at night use will include toggling between high- and low-beam headlights. Once the system determines that collision is imminent without correction, speed and braking systems will activate automatically to assist. At this time, stereo cameras still have difficulty responding to specific traffic signs.

Mass production and cost control

Current blind-spot radar detection sensors cost automakers about $100 each to install, said Rode. However, as automakers gear up for mass-market production of cars with advanced collision-avoidance technology, manufacturers are looking for ways to lower the cost. Chrysler and Honda have used the technology most often to date, in mid-range vehicles and minivans.

Autoliv Electronics has found that software production is the most cost-effective route to expanding the capability of collision-avoidance systems. Once the relatively expensive camera system is already in place, expanding the capability via software additions is much less costly.

High-speed adaptive cruise control must integrate

Rode speculated that the use of high-speed adaptive cruise control in collision-avoidance systems will only see moderate growth, considering that sales of the system industry-wide have been quite modest for some time. Yet the only way to make collision-avoidance systems as effective as they can be is to incorporate an on-the-fly cruise control system of that nature, notes Rode. These systems will include automatic braking, too.

Low-speed radar also important

Not all dangerous collisions occur at high speeds. This is why low-speed collision-avoidance systems are also important. Daimler already uses blind-spot radar for low-speed situations, and the European version of the Ford Focus is equipped with such systems that work at mid-range from the vehicle (80 to 100 meters), rather than the most common range of 200 meters. Such lower-powered radar systems are cheaper, and hence could quickly become common, as Rode sees it.

2013 Volvo V40 blind spot radar at work


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