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FLIR Systems and VSI Labs fuse thermal, radar, visible sensors and AI to improve AEB systems

FLIR Systems, Inc. announced the results from recent automatic emergency braking (AEB) tests that examined how adding a thermal sensor and fusing the data with a radar, a visible sensor, and a trained neural network can improve pedestrian detection from current AEB systems.

Following positive proof-of-concept test results announced earlier this year, FLIR and VSI Labs returned to the American Center for Mobility and conducted positive detection AEB tests of VSI Labs’ Ford Fusion test vehicle and current AEB systems on the Tesla Model 3, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Forester, and BMW X7.

The tests were designed by VSI and aimed at testing AEB system performance in common real-world driving conditions not currently included in recognized testing protocols.

The results showed comparable performance on several baseline European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) tests for the FLIR thermal fused system as well as significantly improved performance in challenging real-world conditions, including when a pedestrian’s clothing blends into a background, sun glare is present, and when a child enters the roadway from behind a parked car at night.

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In an October 2019 report, AAA testing showed that AEB systems available in consumer vehicles today to detect and stop for pedestrians, which do not include thermal sensors, have short comings, and were “ineffective during nighttime conditions.”

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A comprehensive AEB sensor system suite. No single sensor will solve for all the variables a vehicle will encounter on the road. Many ADAS systems are built with radar and/or visible camera(s) to provide AEB capability. LiDAR is not used in these systems today due in large part to cost. FLIR proposes that a thermal LWIR camera in a fused AEB system with radar, a visible camera, and a CNN offers a comprehensive sensor suite. This fused system would improve braking and/ or impact avoidance performance in common conditions such as darkness, sun glare, fog, and corner cases not adequately addressed by methods used today. The addition of thermal LWIR sensors is achievable at a reasonable cost. Source: FLIR


Pedestrian deaths continue to rise on roadways worldwide, with more than 6,000 pedestrian fatalities occurring in 2019 in the United States. These fatalities, especially the 75% of them that occur at night, could be largely preventable with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), specifically AEB, FLIR noted.

Our test results are in line with the AAA report and show that adding thermal imaging to existing sensor suites can meaningfully improve AEB systems. We also wanted to demonstrate to regulators, key decision-makers, and the general public that it is possible to have a system that improves driver and pedestrian safety and can help in the efforts to dramatically decrease pedestrian deaths.

— Mike Walters, Vice President, Product Management for Automotive in FLIR Systems’ Components business

Two categories of tests were conducted: standard Euro NCAP tests to baseline test VSI Lab’s test vehicle performance and five supplemental tests with all vehicles to emulate common real-world driving scenarios that are not currently tested. The tests generally followed the Euro NCAP standards, including being conducted in dry conditions, with an ambient outside temperature above five degrees Celsius and using a standard heated soft pedestrian target (SPT).

From there, VSI modified the tests by adding oversized white and dark clothing to the SPT; a sun glare situation where there was a dramatic lighting change as the vehicle exited a tunnel; a nighttime scenario using child and adult SPTs emerging from behind a parked car in total darkness.

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