How 5G can improve vehicle-to-pedestrian technology

Jon Lawson
Vishnu Sundaram, vice president of the Telematics Unit at Harman, tells us about his vision of a safer, more autonomous future

Around 1.35 million people die annually as a result of road traffic crashes. More than half of these deaths are vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – and it is the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have come on in leaps and bounds during recent years to help improve road safety, but 5G and increased cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) connectivity will enable new technologies with life-saving potential to come to market.

The applications of 5G to vehicle-to-pedestrian technology

Samsung’s Harman has introduced ‘vehicle-to-pedestrian’ technology that utilises low latency 5G peer-to-peer signals and proximity scanning to identify and notify drivers of objects in the vehicle’s path.

Currently, a connected car equipped with this technology can monitor the location of up to 2,500 5G-enabled devices within a 1km range, such as smart phones being carried by pedestrians or cyclists. This information is fed into an algorithm that tracks the speed and trajectory of the device, selects the subjects most at risk and homes in to predict whether its movements could conflict with the path of the vehicle. The driver is alerted to potential safety conflicts even where advanced cameras aren’t able to see obstructions, whether they’re beyond the visible distance or around corners or parked vehicles.

“Beacon information containing location, direction of travel and speed is shared between the 5G-enabled devices and the vehicle,” explains Vishnu Sundaram, from Harman Connected Car. “The cars have a target classification algorithm running on them so they can select those that are most at risk of causing a collision and alert if a safety issue arises.”

Due to 5G’s low latency, communication between the device and the car can take as little as 10 milliseconds, providing the immediacy required to issue warnings if a pedestrian is about to step into the road.

The technology is anticipated to hit the market in 2021/2022 and will increase as 5G becomes standard. “Harman has agreements in place with several OEMs, including most of the Germany luxury manufacturers, one of which will be the first to market with the technology in 2021,” adds Sundaram.

“We foresee that the Euro NCAP assessment will positively impact the timely application of such technologies. Traditionally, crash safety ratings have been based on the physical performance of cars during collisions, but software is now taken into consideration. We anticipate that ratings will be boosted in cars that provide 5G-driven pedestrian alert systems, which will in turn accelerate manufacturer adoption.”

The method for alerting the driver will be specified by the individual OEM, with Harman having explored different options such as visual cues in the vehicle’s head-up display and providing haptic feedback via the steering wheel. At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) it demonstrated a concept of how the technology could provide alerts via a flexible glass dashboard panel.

Where can 5G technology go from here?

In the future, there’s the opportunity for the person carrying the 5G device to also receive a warning, such as an alert tone or vibration, but this is still in development. “At present, we are focused on the automotive element of the technology and ensuring the driver is alerted and has the opportunity to react accordingly,” says Sundaram. “With the support of Samsung, we are looking at how this technology could pair with smartphones initially, as well as other 5G-enabled devices such as headphones and wearables later in the decade.”

As part of Harman’s ExP Integrated Solution Suite, which provides in-car connectivity, safety and entertainment features, vehicle-to-pedestrian technology is currently a passive safety system that forewarns the driver of potential collisions. Sundaram concludes, “The first wave of vehicle-to-pedestrian technology implementation, until around 2025, will be a passive safety warning and won’t control the vehicle. This will then progressively be integrated with the vehicle’s braking system to automatically bring the car to a stop if a safety conflict arises. This will be a significant step towards autonomous vehicles.”

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