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Pedestrian detection in low visibility conditions using infrared camera system

Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) have designed a new pedestrian detection system for cars which works in low visibility conditions; the system uses images captured by far infrared with two thermal cameras to identify the presence of individuals in the field of vision. The objective is to alert the driver to the presence of pedestrians in the path of the vehicle, and even, in the case of cars with automated systems, actually stop the vehicle.

With the model being used in our research, pedestrians up to 40 meters away can be detected, although this distance could be extended if we substitute the lens with one that has greater focus range.

— Daniel Olmeda, Intelligent Systems Laboratory (LSI) at UC3M

The infrared range in which it operates corresponds to the emission of heat which allows it to obtain images in conditions of total darkness.

The functioning of the system, explained in a recent paper published in the journal Integrated Computer-Aided Engineering, is based on new techniques of image pattern recognition.

The researchers determined that the contour of objects in infrared images have congruent phase features that do not vary with temperature; the algorithm they developed detects pedestrian presence according to certain silhouette features, Olmeda said.

This type of device could be easily installed in a commercial vehicle, the UC3M engineers suggest; car models already exist that incorporate cameras in the visible spectrum and integration of a system based on far infrared would not be very different, according to the researchers.

The system has been developed and tested on an IVVI 2.0 (Intelligent Vehicle based on Visual Information) at UC3M. Specifically, they use a type of infrared sensor, the non-refrigerated microbolometer, which has gotten the same results as other more costly refrigerated sensors.

The IVVI 2.0, an actual car that has become a platform for research and experimentation for University faculty and students, also incorporates other artificial vision systems that allow it detect other vehicles and highway lines, read traffic signals, alert the driver with a sound if he or she starts to fall asleep, and warn of any driving danger.

This study is funded by the projects FEDORA from the Comisión Interministerial de Ciencia y Tecnología (CICYT)(Interministerial Science and Technology Research Commission) and by the SEGVAUTO program of the Consejería de Educación, Juventud y Deporte (Council of Youth Sports and New Technologies) of the Autonomous Region of Madrid, which includes researchers from five Spanish university and representatives from the main automobile production factories in operation in Spain.


  • Daniel Olmeda, Cristiano Premebida, Urbano Nunes, José María Armingol and Arturo de la Escalera (2013) “Pedestrian detection in far infrared images,” Integrated Computer-Aided Engineering Volume: 20. Number: 4. Pages: 347-360. doi: 10.3233/ICA-130441


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