While cars are equipped with high-end security systems to ensure the safety of passengers, much hasn't been done to safeguard the pedestrians in case of an accident, until now.
A variety of systems have now been introduced that, when built into a vehicle, may improve a pedestrian's chances of surviving an accident.
A Europe-wide collaboration led by Roger Hardy of the Cranfield Impact Centre at Cranfield University near Bedford in the UK has developed an experimental system for cars that aims to cut this death toll and reduce the severity of injuries.
If the system detects that the car is about to hit a pedestrian, it automatically raises the rear of the bonnet (hood), and releases a giant airbag in front of the windscreen.
Hardy explained that the raised bonnet absorbs some of the energy of the impact, and thus cuts the risk of serious injury to the pedestrian
The system is part of the European Union-funded Integrated Project on Advanced Protection Systems (APROSYS).
"If it's a large pedestrian or on a small town car, the airbag also provides a cushioning effect around the stiff peripheral regions [of the windscreen]," New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying.
German company Takata Petri developed the airbag system used by Hardy.
The same team also helped design a windscreen-mounting system to cushion impacts with the edge of the windscreen.
The windscreen-mounting system consists of a flexible Z-shaped section of metal, up to 15 millimetres wide, separating the windscreen from its frame so that it can flex inwards to absorb energy in a collision.
In another APROSYS collaboration, led by Jurgen Gugler at Graz University of Technology in Austria, the researchers studied how changing the shape of the front of a truck could reduce harm to pedestrians.
After analysing computer simulations of 20 accident scenarios, the scientists observed that a smooth sloping surface with a central bulge reduces the likelihood of a pedestrian involved in a front-end accident being run over by 80 to 90 per cent.
"A pedestrian is deflected to the side, rotated and pushed towards the ground. You are out of the path of the oncoming truck," said Gugler.
In November, Volvo launched its new XC60 car, which included as standard an automatic braking system it claims could prevent half of all low-speed rear-end collisions.
The Volvo S60, which will be launched next year, is planned to be the first car to be fitted with full automatic braking to avoid collisions with pedestrians.