January 22, 2014 5:57 am JST

Honda tech stops speeding cars from hitting pedestrians

TOKYO -- Honda has developed the world's first automatic braking system that can keep a vehicle traveling as fast as 60kph from colliding with a pedestrian, part of a race among automakers to improve safety using automated functions.

     Automatic braking systems detect obstacles using radar and cameras, and then slow down or stop the car to prevent an accident. Automakers have introduced braking systems that detect other vehicles, but technologies that can accurately distinguish pedestrians are increasingly in demand in Europe and Japan.

     Honda's new technology employs millimeter wave radar and a high-resolution camera to identify pedestrians sooner than conventional braking systems can. It is able to prevent a collision even if the vehicle is traveling at 60kph, twice as fast as similar systems developed by other automakers. Honda is expected to install the braking system in its Legend luxury sedan slated for release this year, with its global strategic models likely to offer the technology as well. The price has not yet been set.

     Meanwhile, Toyota plans to develop an automatic braking system for its mass production models around 2015, based on an existing technology installed in its Lexus LS luxury sedan that can safely stop the vehicle from a speed of 40kph. The price of a braking system that combines other safety features is about 1 million yen ($9,480) now, but Toyota aims to bring down the price of the braking system alone to less than 100,000 yen. The automaker hopes to make the system work for cars traveling at 70kph by the second half of the decade.

     Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (7270), the company behind Subaru cars, plans to launch a new braking system capable of stopping vehicles going 50kph by installing it in its Levorg sports wagon coming out in May. Expected to be available as an option, the technology will likely cost about 100,000 yen.

     Declining prices of necessary components have triggered the latest race to develop collision prevention systems. The price of image processors used to detect people has plunged by three-quarters from two years ago.

     Advances made in automatic braking technologies are certain to contribute to the development of self-driving cars, which major automakers in Japan and abroad hope to commercialize by around 2020.

(Nikkei)