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Next Generation of DaimlerChrysler's Assistance Systems

Source: DaimlerChrysler | Published: Wed Sep 28, 2005

At this year’s International Motor Show in Frankfurt am Main, DaimlerChrysler is presenting pioneering safety technology for the prevention of accidents at road intersections. For the first time at an automobile show, DaimlerChrysler Research is showing prototypes of new, video-based assistance functions that have been specially developed for traffic situations at intersections.
“Our safety technology helps to recognize potentially dangerous situations earlier, to carry out critical driving maneuvers successfully, and thus to minimize the overall accident risk,” explained Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG with responsibility for Research and Technology and for Development at the Mercedes Car Group. “DaimlerChrysler has long been a technological pioneer, setting standards and bench-marks in the field of safety. And we will continue to deliver pioneering innovations in the future.”

Driver assistance systems for road intersections protect not only the driver but also other road users, for example by recognizing traffic approaching from the side and warning of potential collisions in good time. Road intersections are the most frequent scene of accidents in city traffic. Most of the accidents that happen there are due to drivers not noticing red lights or stop signs. Other common causes of accidents are mistakes when turning out of or into a main road. In urban driving conditions, the driver has to quickly asses the situation, make decisions and react accordingly – while keeping a watchful eye on the road and other road users.

Cars learn to “See”

Around 60% of all urban accidents occur at intersections either as a result of red lights or stop signs being overlooked or during turning maneuvers. These collisions are mainly caused by a driver’s attention being diverted or a driver’s false assessment of the situation. People often react just a fraction of a second too late. Experts have estimated that about half of all accidents at intersections with stop lights could be avoided if drivers were warned against inadvertently passing a red light. But assistance systems require virtually zero reaction time. The immediate flow of information with rapid optical systems can be utilized to warn the driver in good time. The process developed by DaimlerChrysler Research provides assistance: A video camera behind the windscreen supplies pictures of the traffic situation and a picture-processing algorithm analyzes these pictures with the use of pattern recognition. Bright spots of light are recognized and traffic lights can be distinguished from similar objects such as the brake lights of vehicles ahead with the aid of learnt information. Camera pictures are evaluated with a special algorithm also for the recognition of stop signs, which are recognized through the analysis of shape, markings, and writing.

Motion Recognition a Key Element

Even greater safety advances are offered by motion recognition – an additional module of the Intersection Assistant. The additional information delivered by a specially developed reliable system of picture-recognition is used to warn the driver in good time. A mobile stereo camera monitors the situation ahead of the car. Information from a digital roadmap ensures that the camera can be optimally pointed and focused on the situation of the approaching intersection in advance. Within a few milliseconds, the system registers objects moving towards the vehicle’s lane from the side. By analyzing the direction of motion, distance and speed in relation to its own vehicle, the system assesses whether there is the risk of an accident.

Cross-traffic is recognized via the detection of moving pixels. Their movement is tracked over time and the danger of collision is calculated in advance. Vectors marked in different colors symbolize the potential danger calculated for the next half a second. The length of the vector indicates the speed of the object.

Multi-Stage Warning System for Dangerous Situations

No matter whether cross-traffic, stop signs or red lights – if the object has been recognized and the driver does not react, he or she receives a warning. This comes in several stages: first visual and then acoustic. If required, the brakes are briefly operated as an additional warning.

Automatic emergency braking has also been performed with the test vehicles of the DaimlerChrysler Research department in order to demonstrate the system’s abilities. The research engineers aim to provide maximum support for anticipatory driving, without relieving the driver of his or her responsibility, however.

Research has also been done into the question of how and when information can be best provided to the driver. The management of information and warnings appropriate for each situation makes sure that the driver first receives the information that is the most important for the current situation. This ranking ensures that warnings have priority.

The work on the Intersection Assistant has been partially supported by Federal Ministry for Research and Technology within the framework of the “INVENT” research initiative. The task of ongoing research work will be to further refine the prototypes and then to develop new pioneering safety systems for the traffic of the future.

DaimlerChrysler Research is Working on the Vision of Accident-Free Driving

The goal for the future is intelligent assistance systems that can interpret situations in advance. With the aid of sensor data, DaimlerChrysler’s research engineers are already able not only to analyze traffic situations, but also to forecast whether a situation could lead to the danger of an accident. In the future, DaimlerChrysler assistance systems will be able to “comprehend” the entire environment of a vehicle. In this way, they will be able to interpret the current driving situation even more reliably, and will thus contribute to enhanced road safety.

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