• NATALIA SOUSA

How Testing and Thermal Imaging can improve Automatic Emergency Braking systems.


Thermal Image equipment supplier FLIR and VSI Labs, recently carried out a series of automatic emergency braking (AEB) tests to demonstrate how pedestrian detection can be improved for AEB systems. To carry this out FLIR added a thermal sensor and then fusing the data with a radar, a visible sensor and a trained neural network. Proof-of-concept test results that were announced earlier this year were positive, so FLIR and VSI Labs have conducted positive detection AEB tests on a VSI labs Ford Fusion test vehicle, and on existing AEB systems used on Tesla Model 3, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Forester, and the BMW X7.


The aim of the project was to test AEB system performance in common real world driving conditions, this type of testing (designed by VSI) is not yet included in recognized testing protocols. Results of the testing have shown comparable performance on several baseline Euro NCAP tests, the FLIR thermal fused system demonstrated it significantly improved performance of AEB systems in challenging real-world conditions. Examples of improvements included much improved detection of a pedestrian using clothing that blends into a background, also overcoming issues with sun glare, and a child entering a roadway from behind a stationary vehicle during the hours of darkness.


A report from October 2019, demonstrated that AAA testing carried out on AEB systems without thermal sensors exposed the systems as ineffective during night-time conditions, in terms of detecting and stopping for pedestrians. In 2019 there were over 6000 pedestrian fatalities, the death toll continues to rise world-wide. Its estimated that 75% of fatalities occur in hours of darkness , which could be largely preventable with the use of ADAS on AEB systems.


“Current AEB systems on the market today are challenged in low light conditions, especially when it comes to detecting pedestrians walking out in front of the car,” said Phil Magney, Founder and President at VSI Labs. “When we developed the fused system and these tests, we aligned our testing with the Euro NCAP standards, but we also created challenging real-world scenarios to test the systems found in cars today.”


The project consisted of two categories of testing. The standard Euro NCAP, this provided a baseline test for the performance of the VSI Labs, test vehicle, followed by five supplemental tests which were used to emulate real-world scenarios, which are not currently tested. The tests aimed to follow Euro NCAP standards, conducted in dry conditions that were above 5 degrees Celsius (outside ambient temperature), using a standard heated soft pedestrian target (SPT).

VSI altered conditions of the SBT by adding white and darker coloured clothing , they created a test for excessive sun glare, where dramatic lighting was experienced as a vehicle left a dark tunnel, and finally staging night-time scenarios where they used an adult sized SPT and a child sized SPT that emerged from behind a parked vehicle during an episode of total darkness.