Get ready for more high-tech collision avoidance systems in our motor vehicles. This time we are specifically looking at dodging Bambi. About a million deer are hit annually in the US. Damages include 27,000 injuries to people (I assume you understand the deer did not do too well either) costing about three and a half billion dollars. Of course, deer are not the only critters that are hit.
It turns out collision avoidance systems have much more difficulty recognizing animals compared to people. That is starting to change. In 2014, Mercedes-Benz S-Class cars will come equipped with Night Vision Assist Plus. The car company collaborated with Autoliv, a Swedish safety-system company. The inherent technical difficulties in recognizing all types of animals demanded significant time for research, data collection, and system design. Writing in Popular Science, Lawrence Ulrich gives us this description (“Animal Avoidance: An Infrared System that Spots Wildlife from 500 Feet Away” September 2013, p. 18):
“One reason the upgrade took five years is that recognizing animals is much more difficult than recognizing people. Species vary widely in size and shape, have profiles that change drastically when they turn, and move differently. (Humans, by comparison, have more or less the same shape and move in the same way.) To train the system, Autoliv cataloged thousands of animals across five continents. Night View Assist Plus merges data from two cameras to create an illuminated view of what’s ahead. When an animal or pedestrian nears a roadway, the system highlights it on an in-dash display, and, if danger is imminent, sounds an alarm and pre-charges the car’s brakes.”
If that is not impressive enough, consider this: The data from the two cameras is merged by the system’s processor and instantly checked against 150 parameters to eliminate false positives. This is definitely a case where high-tech creates no-touch. That means the deer feel better and we do too!