What is pedestrian protection and how does it work?

There are many articles written about car safety – with the majority of these articles focussing on the safety of the driver and passengers inside the vehicle. But what about the person walking, running or jogging on the roads? Pedestrians account for about 18% of road deaths, and as our roads are become increasingly more congested, pedestrian safety needs to become a focus area. Pedestrians struck by the front of a vehicle account for the majority of pedestrian fatalities.

While there are no Australian regulations which apply specifically to the pedestrian ‘friendliness’ of vehicles, ANCAP, the Australian New Car Assessment Program has aligned its crash test and assessment procedures to the European Experimental Vehicles Committee’s (EEVC) component tests representing the three most important mechanisms of injury for pedestrians : head, upper legs and lower legs. In the ANCAP tests, up to 42 points are allocated to results relating to adult and child simulated impacts in the areas of the bonnet, windscreen and front of the vehicle.

Car manufacturers are increasingly employing techniques such as crumple zones and deformable structures in order to lessen the possible injury to a pedestrian on impact. Another technology that is emerging is that of the active bonnet. In the event of a collision an active bonnet system will  cause the bonnet of the car to lift by a few millimetres as soon as contact with the font bumper is detected – allowing some space between the engine which will cushion the impact of a person.

Mercedes has recently filed patents for a safety system that applies the principle of airbags on the outside of the vehicle, with airbags fitted in the A-pillars which will deploy on impact, effectively cushioning the impact of a person.

These technologies focus on lessening the impact of a collision with a pedestrian – but obviously, first prize would be to avoid this situation entirely.

One safety system which helps to avoid a pedestrian collision is auto emergency braking (AEB) and forward collision warning which can stop your vehicle and avoid  obstacles ahead. In some cars the system operates only for lower speeds, and in others, a warning is provided to the driver if a potential collision is identified – this technology is applied differently in various vehicle makes and models.

Into the future, we can expect that systems that rely on vehicle-to-vehicle communication will start to be deployed – using other vehicles nearby to relay information that alerts the driver to road hazards, including pedestrians. It is to be expected that, with advances in technology such as this, pedestrian road fatalities can be dramatically reduced in the future, in spite of our ever increasingly congested roads.