Active Pedestrian Safety: from Research to Reality


October 3, 2013


Dariu M Gavrila


Daimler R&D (Ulm, Germany) and Univ. of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)


One of the most significant large-scale deployments of intelligent systems in our daily life nowadays involves driver assistance in smart cars. The past decade has witnessed a steady increase of interest in the plight of the vulnerable road users, i.e. pedestrians and bicyclists. Accident statistics show that roughly one quarter of all traffic fatalities world-wide involve vulnerable road users; most accidents occur in an urban setting. Devising an effective driver assistance system for vulnerable road users has long been impeded, however, by the “perception bottleneck”, i.e. not being able to detect and localize vulnerable road users sufficiently accurate. The problem is challenging due to the large variation in object appearance, the dynamic and cluttered urban backgrounds, and the potentially irregular object motion. Topping these off are stringent performance criteria and real-time constraints. I give an overview of the remarkable research progress that has been achieved in this area and discuss its main enablers: the algorithms, the data, the hardware and the tests.

Our long-standing research on vulnerable road users has recently paid off. Our company, Daimler, deploys an advanced set of driver assistance functions for its Mercedes-Benz 2013 E- and S-Class models, termed “Intelligent Drive”, using stereo vision sensing. It includes a pedestrian safety component which facilitates fully automatic emergency braking – the system works day and night. I conclude by discussing future research directions, on the road towards accident-free driving.


Dariu M Gavrila

Dariu M. Gavrila received the PhD degree in computer science from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1996. Since 1997, he has been with Daimler R&D in Ulm, Germany, where he is currently a Senior Research Scientist. In 2003, he was further appointed professor at the University of Amsterdam, chairing the area of Intelligent Perception Systems (part time).

Over the past 15 years, Prof. Gavrila has focused on visual systems for detecting humans and their activity, with application to intelligent vehicles and surveillance. He led the multi-year pedestrian detection research effort at Daimler, which materialized in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class models (2013). He is frequently cited in the scientific literature and he received the I/O 2007 Award from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), as well as several conference paper awards. His personal Web site is