“I didn’t see it coming.” This might be the first thought running through a driver’s mind after an accident caused by an object or vehicle in a driver’s blind spot. Blind spots account for an estimated 830,000 accidents a year in America, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Though systems designed to see into blind spots have been in development since 1986, one will finally be available as an aftermarket item for fleet customers beginning this summer.
Current blind-spot detection systems are either radar based or camera based. Valeo Raytheon’s Lane Change Assistance System consists of two radar sensors joined to a control box and two LED-warning indicators mounted in the side rear-view mirrors. The sensors continuously monitor the presence, direction and velocity of vehicles in the roadway lanes adjacent to the equipped vehicle. When vehicles or objects move into the blind spot, the warning indicators light and an audio alarm may sound. The final display and warning configuration will be determined by the automaker, according to the company.
Mobileye NV, based in the Netherlands, has developed a non-radar accident warning system called EyeQ, which uses a small camera located behind the rear-view mirror that sends computer images to a driver display on the dash, accompanied by speakers for warning signals. The system features a lane departure warning, which responds with the sound and feeling of a rumble strip, a forward collision warning, which monitors vehicles ahead and issues visual and audible emergency warnings, a vehicle cut-in warning, which monitors the lateral motion of target vehicles, and an optional interface that stores video and data capture of warnings. This feature may be helpful for substantiating non-fault in the event of an accident.
Mobileye announced these products at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2004 World Congress, held in Detroit March 8-12. Mobileye states that these products will be available for installation in fleet vehicles in June of this year, and in consumer vehicles shortly thereafter.
Ford Motor Co. has taken a holistic approach to auto safety with the creation of a concept vehicle called the S2RV (Smart, Safe Research Vehicle). The vehicle, an Explorer, was developed in 2003 to showcase new technologies such as voice-activated telematics, Bluetooth wireless technology, and digital adaptive headlights capable of looking around corners. The vehicle’s safety sensor suite actively detects potential hazards and warns drivers by either emitting an audible sound or by tightening seatbelts. The system uses TrafficView cameras mounted on side-view mirrors that feed into a display in the instrument cluster, which gives the driver the ability to look around any vehicles blocking the view of the road. The vehicle also has sensors mounted in the front and rear that track the positions and speeds of other cars and determine their collision potential. Lastly, the vehicle features an active night-vision head-up display that images the road ahead using infrared lasers.
By bringing these new safety technologies to market, manufacturers are heeding the concerns of consumers. A survey of designers and engineers conducted by Dupont Automotive at the SAE World Congress identified cost reduction as their number one challenge (33 percent) in designing next generation vehicles, though they identified safety as the second most identified concern with 13 percent. However, 66 percent of survey respondents believe consumers rank safety as most important, up substantially from the previous year’s figures, while vehicle performance ranks second with 47 percent of the vote.