Dutch cyclist-detection test introduced by Euro NCAP for new cars

Safety protocols from the European New Car Assessment Programme – Euro NCAP – will include assessments of cyclist-detection technology, it has been announced today.

The protocols were developed by the Dutch Ministry of Transport. 

Euro NCAP board member and senior policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Transport Robbert Verweij said: “It was the drive to save cyclists’ lives which inspired the Dutch government to fund a major project which led to the development of a protocol for detecting cyclists. We are honoured that Euro NCAP has decided to add this protocol to their rating scheme."

Automatic emergency braking systems have been offered as an optional upgrade for many cars since Volvo introduced them in 2009 – they initially aimed to avoid collisions with cars and trucks, and later versions also added pedestrian and cyclist detection, but until now there was no standardised protocol for automakers to meet or exceed.

Verweij added: "This first Euro NCAP release of a AEB-Cyclist-equipped vehicle shows what the joint efforts of governments and cyclists’ associations can achieve in collaboration with Euro NCAP.”

Secretary General of Euro NCAP Michiel van Ratingen said: "Our new assessments demonstrate the increasing level of sophistication that can be achieved by connecting various sensor systems installed on the vehicle. As the cost of these systems drops and computing capabilities increase, standard vehicles will soon become able to help prevent significantly more complex real-life crashes."

Euro NCAP’s testing protocols are advisory only, but they are often used as selling points in automaker’s marketing materials so tend to get adopted.

The cyclist-detection with automatic emergency brake technology testing has been welcomed by the UK’s AA.

AA president Edmund King said: “Drivers should always be responsible and alert for cyclists but technology can add extra protection. We welcome the new assessments to add further protection for cyclists and pedestrians."  

The new assessment has been tested for the first time on the latest Nissan LEAF electric car. It is included in a new designation called Automatic Emergency Braking Pedestrian Vulnerable Road Users, or snappily AEBVRU for short. The LEAF got a five-star rating, the top result. 

Detecting cyclists presents new challenges to car manufacturers, both from a hardware and a software perspective: sensors must have a wide angle of view to detect fast-moving cyclists in good time, and complex algorithms are needed to ensure correct identification of potential collision threats while avoiding false activations. 

A new study suggests that cyclist detection systems will need sensor coverage spanning almost 180 degrees in front of the car to avoid colliding with fast-moving, nimble cyclists.

Lead author James Lenard, a research analyst at Datarye and visiting fellow at Loughborough University, found that “almost complete 180-degree forward vision is required to provide a 90 percent detection zone for cyclists.” (Collisions with pedestrians rarely occurred outside a frontal viewing zone of 35 degrees). The study – published in the latest Accident Analysis & Prevention journal – looked at the crash data from 175 pedestrians and 127 cyclists.

This dataset extracted time-to-collision information, and was compiled for the Department for Transport in conjunction with Thatcham Research and the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The data  showed that motorists tend to encounter many more cyclists than pedestrians at road intersections. However, insights from this data – mostly urban – might not work for rural areas or for different countries. 

“In countries with more dedicated bicycle lanes, it is conceivable that cars turning across the path of ‘undertaking’ bicycles might be more prevalent than in Britain: this could imply more AEB ‘rear vision,’” Lenard explained

“In countries with higher impact speeds than Britain, a longer [detection] range might be beneficial.”

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