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Volvo's pedestrian detection works, usually

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  July 16, 2010 10:02 AM

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(Clifford Atiyeh/ Staff)

Bob the dummy stands in the path of the 2011 Volvo S60.

Volvo, which in 2009 introduced the industry's first auto-braking feature on its XC60 crossover, has expanded the technology to detect pedestrians as well as cars. The original "City Safety" system uses laser sensors to detect slow-moving or stopped vehicles, and then measures that against driver input. If the driver isn't doing anything to avoid a collision, the car jabs the brakes and comes to a stop from up to 9 mph.

The latest version, which debuts on the long-overdue 2011 S60, can halt the car from up to 22 mph, and when coupled with optional pedestrian detection, it's even smarter. Luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class have used a similar pedestrian system on their night vision displays, but only to warn the driver as opposed to taking his control. The S60 — Volvo's mid-size and best-selling model — will debut this technology when it goes on sale this fall. Pricing starts at $38,550 with destination. The detection feature is a part of a $2,100 "technology" package.

We sampled it during a public demonstration at Boston Volvo Village in Brighton, and while it's just as startling as in the XC60 we tested last year, the pedestrian detection seemed to get confused in crowds. In the last few seconds of the video below, several onlookers are standing to the far left and right of the car, but the S60 plows ahead. When no one stood near the dummy, the system worked fine.

Text and drive much? You may not after seeing this:

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
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