Intelligent Vehicles: Raising Your Car's IQ

Herbie, the beloved Volkswagen, demonstrated some slick, collision-avoiding moves as it charmed audiences in its five Disney movies and two TV series. Soon, we may all have some help avoiding collisions, and it won't be aided by a film studio's special-effects department.

A U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) program called the Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems (IVBSS) initiative aims to entice automotive and commercial vehicle manufacturers to develop and include technology in their cars and trucks that would prevent a number of common accidents.

Specifically, the U.S. DOT wants to bring driver assistance systems to market that would provide better hazard information from multiple sensors (forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane change warning and curve speed warning), along with warnings to reduce driver distractions.

Proponents of the initiative believe the technology will help address the crash types that account for 67 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The widespread adoption of IBVSS technology could reduce rear-end, road-departure and lane-change collisions by 48 percent, according to the U.S. DOT.

Technology is the Key

The IVBSS program, which started in November 2005, is a four-year, two-phase cooperative research program being conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and automotive industry representatives.

To carry out the program, the U.S. DOT awarded a $25 million contract to UMTRI, which is partnering with Visteon, Eaton, Cognex, Honda R&D Americas, Battelle and the Michigan Department of Transportation. (The partners will contribute an additional $6.6 million.) The stipulations of the program call for the consortium to develop and test "a new, integrated crash warning system in a fleet of 16 passenger cars and 10 heavy-duty trucks."

The ultimate goal of the IVBSS program is to combine existing safety and collision-avoidance technologies into an integrated system that can warn drivers of imminent crashes. The program will work with the automotive, trucking and transit industries to include these technologies in light, commercial and transit vehicles.

In particular, the program is looking at technology to avoid three common crash scenarios independently; later, more work will be done to find ways to make these technologies work together as a single, integrated system.

The scenarios and technologies of interest include:

  • Rear-End Collision Avoidance: Systems designed to help avoid this type of crash might include GPS, digital mapping, forward-focused radar and on-board cameras. Together, these technologies would be used to warn drivers that they may be following too closely or approaching the vehicle ahead of them at an unsafe speed.
  • Road Departure Collision Avoidance: Systems designed to help avoid this type of crash might include vision-based line tracking and map-based road geometry technologies. Together, these would be used to warn drivers when they are about to drift off the road, crash into an obstacle or are traveling too fast for an upcoming curve.
  • Lane Change/Merge Collision Avoidance: Systems designed to help avoid this type of crash might include forward, rear and side-scanning radar and vision-based cameras. These technologies would be used to determine whether it is safe for the driver to change lanes or merge into a lane from an entrance ramp.

All of these systems would use software to monitor vehicle speed, braking and throttle output. The software would also provide messages to the driver, if necessary.

The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), which coordinates U.S. DOT research programs including the IVBSS, notes that there are a number of issues that must be addressed to make a final integrated system useful and valuable. RITA points out that a lot of work has already been done on these systems individually to reduce false alarms, avoid overwhelming the driver with too many warnings and ensuring the system is forceful enough to get the driver's attention.

When these collision-avoidance systems are integrated, these issues will need to be readdressed, according to RITA. If they are not, false alarms and too many alarms might cause the driver to ignore a system's warnings.

Working Its Way to Reality

In the U.S. DOT's first annual IVBSS report, issued last October, the agency reported the program had already achieved several notable milestones, including the preliminary development and specification of the driver-vehicle interfaces (DVI), laboratory and simulator studies and initial installation of the subsystem hardware into test vehicles.

Earlier this year, UMTRI issued a report summarizing the progress on the program's human factors research and DVI development efforts. The work here included five laboratory studies, four driving simulator studies and two on-road pilot tests conducted to assess a variety of driver-interface concepts that might form the basis of the integrated warning systems. Other work completed or being completed includes the development and refinement of the IVBSS threat-assessment algorithms. There are also a number of field tests being conducted and planned.

Over the next two years, as much of the discrete systems technology for each type of accident avoidance scenario is being developed and improved, the IVBSS will leverage those technologies and use the program's work on driver interface technology and algorithms to assimilate the information from these systems intelligently and present them to the driver in the most usable and effective format. [source]


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