Škoda Found a Good Use for Big Grilles and Robots: Pedestrian Safety

Image:  Škoda
Image: Škoda

Škoda is working with AV startups, universities, and other research institutions in Europe to develop technology for the sake of pedestrian safety, and some of it could finally make use of the big, ugly grilles on so many modern cars. Rather than subject us to useless grilles on its EVs, Škoda is experimenting with color-coded warnings that show when it’s safe or dangerous to use the crosswalk.

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The Czech carmaker has built a crude prototype for now that hardly seems as cool as the renders, but the company says the device could be integrated on the Škoda Enyaq iV within a couple of years. That EV is built on the same platform as the Volkswagen ID.4, and while the VW doesn’t suffer from a big grille, the technology would nonetheless be useful on the German EV, which is sold in the U.S. where pedestrian injuries and deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. The carmaker explains the tech and possible timeline for release in this video:

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Škoda is jointly developing a robot with the Technical University of Prague and Technical University of Munich, which will act as a sort of crossing guard at intersections. The robot is known as the IPA2X, and it was designed to help kids, seniors, and people with disabilities cross roads safely. The 6.5-foot robot will be tall enough to look over rows of parked cars to detect oncoming traffic, and will be able to “talk” with modern cars, alerting drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

The IPA2X — short for Intelligent Pedestrian Assistant to Everyone — will rely on LiDar and computers to detect cars, and it will transmit warnings to those cars capable of sending and receiving information from other IoT devices; warnings will appear on infotainment displays, but the robotic rover will roll onto crosswalks and features separate screens for both pedestrians and drivers. The screens will display the appropriate information (such as Stop or Walk) but Škoda is also considering adding auditory warnings to increase safety.

Screenshot:  YouTube
Screenshot: YouTube

The carmaker refers to it as a “smart stop light,” and during the development of the IPA2X, Škoda started to tinker with the concept of adding visual warnings to cars themselves. The idea is that the IPA2X and visual warnings of the Škoda Enyaq iV together could provide unavoidable safety cues for pedestrians.

The carmaker and its partners tout the use of the tech as vehicles become autonomous, but it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to use similar technology now. Even if there’s no IPA2X robot to communicate with a Škoda Enyaq iV or Volkswagen ID.4, it’s possible that any car with a large grille could use that wasted space to visually warn pedestrians with loud, bright warnings.

Screenshot:  YouTube
Screenshot: YouTube
Screenshot:  YouTube
Screenshot: YouTube

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