Ford gives pedestrian-spotting bumpers access to the brakes

Ford is rolling out a new set of smart driving aids that the car company claims could potentially eliminate frontal collisions involving pedestrians, using a combination of radar and lasers to spot people walking out into the road unexpectedly. Contrary to what Ford's graphic might suggest, the system doesn't involve the new 2015 Mondeo (aka the Ford Fusion) firing laser beams from its grille and cutting pedestrians into sufficiently small pieces so that they fit under the car rather than colliding with its hood. Instead, the invisible beams can call in favors from the braking system.

If you're merrily trundling down the road and someone steps out in front of the car, the Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection system will first flag up a warning to the driver in the cabin.

After that, the distance between the brake pads and discs is reduced so as to cut engagement time. However, if you still show no signs of slowing, it can apply up to the full force of the brakes to bring the car to a halt.

In fact, the system consists of two halves. Pre-Collision Assist works at all speeds, and tracks other vehicles ahead so as to use the brakes if necessary to avoid a crash. The Pedestrian Detection, meanwhile, operates at lower speeds, and does the same for those on-foot.

Fitted to the new 2015 Mondeo as an option when the car goes on sale in Europe, the technology uses a camera in the windshield and a radar near the front bumper, comparing the shapes seen with records of what pedestrians might look like. Ford taught its computer over the course of 300,000 miles of different terrain, so as to help avoid mistaken identity.

Even with that, though, Ford isn't claiming the Mondeo is anywhere close to being as smart as the driver themselves. In fact, the company warns, there are many times when it won't be performing at its peak: at nighttime, for instance, or when there are low and harsh lighting conditions, vehicles moving in a different direction, and during certain weather conditions.

Ford says that, following the European Mondeo launch, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection will be progressively offered as an option on other Ford and Lincoln models around the world.