Ford Demonstrates Results of Research on Active Safety Systems
Ford's European Research Centre in Germany recently presented its results for PReVENT, a research project aimed at improving road safety through active safety systems. The project is co-funded by the EU Commission. Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information society and media, opened the PReVENT conference and exhibition in Versailles, France. The five-day event allowed attendees to experience and test a range of innovative active safety systems. Within the framework of PReVENT, Ford demonstrated how digital data from navigation systems can be used to support future active safety systems in cars. For example, by using the detailed digital map data, the vehicle "recognizes" potential hazard areas and prepares itself to react accordingly. Lane-keeping systems, in particular, will benefit from the additional information provided by digital map data. These systems usually are led by cameras recording lane markings. If the latter are deficient or missing --- in slip roads or intersections, for example --- the cameras alone cannot function properly. In such situations, the digital data provides the necessary and accurate information to allow the lane-keeping system to continue to function. Path Prediction is an additional feature that enhances the use of the digital map data from the navigation system. It is generated by analyzing the daily route pattern of a driver. Through probability calculation, the on-board computer "learns and knows" the route in advance, since most people travel the same one every day. This pool of experience helps the on-board computer to focus on the relevant information and to ignore the unimportant data of the surroundings. This makes the information provided by the navigation system more efficient, more accurate and available faster. (In case the driver does not follow the predicted route, the active safety systems will only consider the recorded data on the navigation system.) For example, path prediction could further enhance a vehicle's adaptive headlamp system, which currently is controlled by the steering angle. In the future, the on-board computer would learn the angle of curves on the route in advance and thus would be able to light the curve at a very early stage. In the occasion of complete darkness or poor visibility resulting from bad weather conditions, the adaptive lighting system could make a significant contribution to route guidance. In addition to the technical issues, PReVENT has also addressed legal issues, to define when and to what extent the different active safety systems may interfere with the driver's autonomy. PReVENT (PReVENTive and Active Safety Applications) is a four-year research project that will end in January 2008, and forms part of the 6th framework program of "Information Society Technologies." In total, 54 partners from industry, as well as from public and private institutions, participated. They included automobile manufacturers and suppliers, electronics manufacturers, information technology and software companies as well as research institutes and public authorities. With a budget of over 55 million Euros, the PReVENT consortium developed new preventive and active safety applications and sophisticated driver information systems based on advanced intelligent technologies. The funding from the European Commission covered approximately 50 percent of the costs.