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Since their debut 13 years ago, in-car night-vision systems,
which identify pedestrians approaching a roadway, have arguably made
driving safer. But they come with a pretty big blind spot: animals. Each
year, drivers in the U.S. strike about a million deer, causing 27,000
human injuries and $3.5 billion in damage. This fall, Swedish
safety-system company Autoliv and Mercedes-Benz will roll out Night
View Assist Plus on the 2014 S-Class. The system identifies people but
also picks out cows, moose, horses, deer, camels, and even wild boar.
Animal Avoidance - How It Works:
reason the upgrade took five years is that recognizing animals is much
more difficult than recognizing people. Species vary widely in size and
shape, have profiles that change drastically when they turn, and move
differently. (Humans, by comparison, have more or less the same shape
and move in the same way.) To train the system, Autoliv cataloged
thousands of animals across five continents.
Night View Assist Plus merges data from two cameras to create an
illuminated view of what’s ahead. When an animal or pedestrian nears a
roadway, the system highlights it on an in-dash display, and, if danger
is imminent, sounds an alarm and pre-charges the car’s brakes. There’s
one feature U.S. regulators have yet to approve, though: In the European
version, a spotlight shines a tracking beam onto live obstacles in the
road, making them almost impossible to miss.