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Pedestrian Detection: The Next Big Thing in Car Safety and Insurance Savings

Not everyone in the world can afford to drive a late model Volvo, but if car insurance companies had their way, everyone would. Don’t expect this to result in some sort of voucher program from car insurance carriers to help those with less money afford expensive luxuries – it’s simply not going to happen. But you can be sure that if you own a vehicle that’s equipped with something as cool as the new Volvo S60 sedan, you’ll see a pretty sizeable discount headed your way the next time you talk to your insurance agent about your rates or surf the web for a car insurance quote.

So what’s the big deal about the Volvo S60 sedan? No, it doesn’t come with an invisible force field that sends hazards bouncing away like a low-impact, high-tech version of bumper cars… although that would be pretty cool, and you can imagine that somewhere in some sterile auto factory lab, there are probably dozens of people in white coats and gloves working on the technology to make that impossible dream a reality. What the Volvo S60 does come with, however, is an option that’s sure to become available on a much wider scale in the near future, making the roads safer and bringing even more options to those looking for discounts so they can buy car insurance on the cheap: Pedestrian Detection.

Its full name is the Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection system, which is just a really long way of saying that it makes your car stop if you’re about to run over a pedestrian. It works by using a wide angle radar system and a small camera on the rearview mirror to detect objects in the car’s path, activating if it judges that you’re on a collision course. The system’s activation happens in two phases. In phase one, the car’s horn will start honking and lights on the interior of the vehicle will begin to flash. If the driver still doesn’t hit the brakes, the car will automatically do so on its own, preventing the collision.

For something this high tech, the Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection does have its limitations. For example, the technology hasn’t yet developed to the point where it can spot a potential pedestrian hazard in any environment other than daylight. If that seems to make little sense, blame it on a technology that’s really still in its infancy. But the fact remains that the highest number of vehicle vs. pedestrian collisions (not to mention the most lethal) occur at night, when visibility is at a minimum. Another drawback is that the auto-brake function only works at speeds under 22 miles per hour. Which means that it’s only really effective for city cruising, and might not even be effective at conscientious neighborhood speeds. Presumably, this is in place to prevent a driver from causing a chain reaction pileup if something dashes out in front of the car’s sensor at bumper-to-bumper freeway speeds. It makes logical sense, but it’s still a limitation.

So in other words, just because your vehicle is equipped with Pedestrian Detection doesn’t get you off the hook for staying alert at the wheel and keeping both eyes open for all sorts of hazards, be they bipedal or otherwise. But it sure beats the alternative, and if it can save one life – or bring your out of pocket expenses down when you compare car insurance – it’ll be well worth the extra $2000 option.

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