How Can Autonomous Vehicles and Pedestrians Safely Coexist? (.PDF Download)

Oct. 6, 2018
How Can Autonomous Vehicles and Pedestrians Safely Coexist? (.PDF Download)

Today’s autonomous vehicles may not have yet reached Level-5 autonomy, but they are, nonetheless, being deployed on public roads. In February, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles approved regulations to permit driverless testing on public roads. Even following the Uber crash in March, cities continue to willingly open their roads to testing. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation signed a Memorandum of Understanding in June to open their roads to autonomous vehicle testing. During these testing periods, in which autonomous vehicles will coexist with pedestrians, extra safety precautions must be taken. It’s particularly worrisome when autonomous vehicles are operating around pedestrians at night.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, pedestrian fatalities increase the most after the sun has gone down. In fact, over three-quarters of all pedestrian deaths happen at night. The Uber crash from March of this year also occurred at night.

For autonomous vehicles to achieve full, Level-5 autonomy and successfully and safely coexist with pedestrians in cities, their sensing solutions must be infallible. But at this point, the sensors used by most automakers simply can’t deliver reliable detection and, therefore, can’t reach full autonomy.

Radar, LiDAR Not Yet Able to Deliver Full Autonomy

The reason fully autonomous vehicles have yet to take over our roadways is because their current sensors’ suites aren’t up to the task. Today, most automakers’ choices for sensing technologies—radar, cameras, and LiDAR—are unable to deliver complete coverage and detection in all scenarios. For this reason, a human driver must be ready at every moment to take control of the vehicle.

Many automakers outfit their vehicles with radar, as it can sufficiently detect objects at long range. However, radar can’t sufficiently identify these objects. Cameras are another commonly used perception solution, though they’re equally, if conversely, flawed. Unlike radar, cameras can accurately identify objects—but only at a close range. For this reason, many automakers use radar and camera together to provide more complete detection and coverage of vehicles’ surroundings: Radar will detect an object far down the road, and the camera will provide a clearer picture of it as it approaches.


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