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Transponder allows cars to "see" pedestrians

January 21, 2014 | Christoph Hammerschmidt | 222904644
Transponder allows cars to Researchers of the Munich Technical University (TUM) have developed a method how driver assistance systems in vehicles can identify pedestrians and cyclists even if they are obscured by large obstacles. In the scheme devised by the Munich scientists, mobile handsets carried by the pedestrians and cyclists assume the function of a transponder.
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It is a nightmare scenario, but quite common: A vehicles rolls along through a residential area at low speed, but roadside obstacles - advertising columns, parking trailers, garbage containers and the like - block the view to the sides. Suddenly, a pedestrian appears behind such an obstacle, on collision course with the car. In this case, the assistant system has triggered the brake in time, the vehicle comes to a stop before it his the pedestrian.

The brake could be activated in this case because the pedestrian was equipped with a transponder, a combined of a radio receiver and transmitter which replies to certain specific signals - in this case to a pedestrian identification system in the approaching vehicle. To determine the exact location of the pedestrian, the system measures distance and direction of the person relatively to the car.

Within the Ko-TAG research project, TUM professor Erwin Biebl and his team devised a new approach to distance measurement which provides a result at an accuracy of a few centimetres and within microseconds. To trigger the measurement process, the car-based system transmits a unique code sequence. A transponder within reach modifies this bit pattern and returns it within a very precisely timing scheme.

To detect an approaching pedestrian, the driver needs to warned or the emergency brake has to be triggered even before the pedestrian steps onto the roadway. At the same time, the likelihood of an unnecessary full braking must be kept extremely low to allow car drivers to find the system reliable enough to use it. For this purpose, a very exact movement estimation is inevitable. Within their research, the TUM scientists were able to reduce the deviation to a few picoseconds. "Thus, we reach an accuracy of just a few centimetres in the distance measurement", said Biebl. "Along with the code-based method, this is the reason for the high performance".

A unique feature is that the system can identify other traffic participants like pedestrians and cyclists even if obstacles obscure them. In addition, this "cooperative sensor system" can identify them unambiguously and predict their movement behaviour. Available driver assistance systems cannot do this.

The transponders could be integrated into the clothing or a school satchel, Biebl suggests. It also could be integrated into mobile handsets and smartphones, something that almost anybody carries along anyway. Only minor hardware modifications are necessary. According to TUM, a large mobile phone manufacturer already shows interest.

The Ko-TAG project, funded by the German ministry for economy and technology, involved the TUM, Fraunhofer IIS, carmaker BMW's R&D subsidiary BMW Forschung und Technik, Continental Safety Engineering GmbH, Fraunhofer's Heinrich Hertz Institute and carmaker Daimler.


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