Lots of vehicles on the road currently use adaptive cruise control on the highway to maintain correct spacing to the vehicle in front of you. But that’s soooo yesterday…
You’re cruising along the highway at speed until your car’s central control unit determines “a situation”; the radar determines the car in front of you is slowing down or traffic is picking up, making for a potentially dangerous driving condition. While you’re innocently listening to tunes and taking in the passing countryside, the system signals to the engine or braking system to decelerate.
And all that is fine on the highway… but what about in the city, where they have all of those annoying traffic impediments known as bicyclists and pedestrians? Ah… there’s the rub!
Researchers based at Warwick University are working on developing an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS – alright, so they’re scientists, not playwrights!) with support from Jaguar Land Rover. The team, led by Ying Ping Huang and Ken Young from Warwick Manufacturing Group, hope to have a proof-of-concept demonstration vehicle in three years.
Their technology would enable cars to use radar, lasers and camera sensors connected to a central control unit to detect and classify potential obstacles in city environments. The radar and lasers, mounted on the front of the car, would send radio waves and laser pulses respectively to determine the distance of potential obstacles. The range to the object would be determined by measuring the time delay between transmission of a wave or pulse and detection of the reflected signal.
Two camera sensors, installed on top of the windshield behind the rear-view window, would gather 3D images of the potential obstacle, a technique commonly used in mobile robotics. The cameras take two pictures of the same scene and computer software compares the images. The program uses the disparity (the amount the images shift) to calculate the object's distance.
Ken Young said that with the use of algorithms and motion-analysis software the object can be classified as static or in motion.
However, most current automotive collision-prevention technology is designed for motorway use. Young said motorways are 'fairly controlled environments' and designing anti-collision technology that can work in an unpredictable and dynamic setting such as a city is much more difficult.
"Obviously over the years vehicles have become pretty safe for the drivers and their occupants, but one of the things we haven't made much progress in is pedestrian safety," Young added.
According to the European Road Safety Observatory, of all traffic fatalities in EU countries, the proportion of pedestrian fatalities is about 17 percent. The EU has introduced legislation that it hopes will cut the number of pedestrian traffic deaths in half by 2010.
On March 3, JLR unveiled a hybrid vehicle that uses GPS and mapping data to automatically adjust vehicle speed depending on local speed limits, traffic conditions and driving features such as bends in the road. It is also programmed to decelerate when traveling past schools, approaching traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. The vehicle, using control technology dubbed “Sentience”, will be commercially available in Jaguar Land Rover cars in four years.
Young and Huang's ADAS may be available in commercial road vehicles in around a decade.
“I think pedestrian safety is something where legislation is going to demand that vehicle manufacturers do something about it,” added Young. “We're just trying to get ahead of the game.”
Sounds like “Sentience” could be “prescient” of things to come: a day when drivers will hardly be necessary at all. Beware…
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