'Smart' cars to help reduce road fatalities
Road accidents kill over 40 000 people in the European Union every year and injure nearly 2 million at a cost of about €160 billion to society. Casualty numbers may be on their way down, but they still remain fairly high. To increase road safety and reduce the number of accidents on European roads the European Commission launched the eSafety initiative in 2003.
eSafety is a public-private sector initiative whose aim is to improve road safety through the use of intelligent road safety systems such as driver assistance techniques. The objective is to promote the research and development of technologies that improve the ability of drivers to prevent or better respond to hazards on the road.
According to a report published by the EU eSafety Working Group in 2002, some 90 to 95% of road accidents are partly caused by human error. Vehicles today are already endowed with a wide range of technology designed to prevent or reduce road casualties. While the most common technology available on cars - seat-belts, airbags, anti-lock breaks, etc. – have reduced the number of fatal accidents over the past decades, they may not be enough to achieve the target set by the European Commission to halve road fatalities by 2010.
While the onus to reach this objective will largely fall on national and local authorities, the Commission, in its White Paper on a European Transport Policy for 2010, emphasised the need for the European Union to contribute to this objective. One such mean is to promote the development of safe and intellegient vehicles.
To illustrate how the European Commission is contributing toward the 2010 goal Mostra is distributing a video news release (VNR) on several intelligent vehicle projects co-financed by the Commission. These projects are collaborative research efforts between public research institutes and the automobile industry which actively seek to develop safer and more intelligent cars that can detect hazards and help drivers avoid danger.
PReVENT is a €55 million project co-financed by the European automobile industry and the European Union. The project’s objective is to develop preventive safety applications that will help drivers avoid or minimise an accident’s impact. This includes:
A project within PReVENT is working on developing a communication system that extends a driver’s field of view by warning him or her of dangerous situations ahead. The project, known as WILLWARN (Wireless Local Danger Warning), focuses its research on improving the detection of impending obstacles through the use of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and developing technology to convey this information to the driver so that he or she may adapt vehicle speed early on and avoid danger.
Another sub-project within PReVENT is SAFELANE. The aim of this project is to develop a lane keeping support system which would detect unintentional lane departure and warn the driver of the fact. Cameras surpervising the road in front of the vehicle and supplemented by data from the vehicle, digital roadmaps, and other positioning sensors would detect the lane the vehicle finds itself in, compute the most likely trajectory and synthesise the actions to take. An active steering component actively supports the driver to avoid unintended lane or road departure. The resulting technology has already been demonstrated in commercial and passenger vehicles on test tracks, motorways and rural roads.