Velodyne says lidar helps camera-based braking systems see pedestrians at night

Even as vehicles are equipped with more advanced driver-assistance systems and detection technologies, pedestrian fatalities are growing exponentially, particularly in the dark.

From 2010 to 2019, nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 54 percent, compared with a 16 percent increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities, according to a report last month from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Technologies such as pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking are designed to help prevent such tragedies, but current systems can only go so far. Most of them still rely on cameras to determine if there is something in front of the vehicle, said David Aylor, manager of active safety testing at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“In low-light situations, those cameras — just like our eyes — really struggle,” Aylor said. “AEB systems do well during the day; they don’t do as well at night.

“On top of that, headlights aren’t as good as they could be,” he added. “If you have a vehicle that is equipped with an AEB system that does a good job at recognizing pedestrians during the day, if their headlights aren’t adequate, the camera is not going to be able to detect the pedestrians. It’s really a challenging situation for the current systems.”

Velodyne Lidar Inc. says it has a solution. The Silicon Valley sensor company has been testing a pedestrian automated emergency braking, or PAEB, system equipped with lidar and software that it says is more effective at detecting pedestrians at nighttime than radar and camera-based systems. Lidar uses pulsed lasers to measure the distance to an object.