road traffic

What is the status of innovations in road safety?


Road safety remains a major concern for researchers and vehicle manufacturers. And safety and autopilot do not yet go hand in hand! Researchers from various universities around the world are working to make cars, roads and traffic safer.

Thanks to UMTRI tests (University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute), the situation of constant danger on the roads may change. 

michiganResearchers will run more than 3,000 automated, Wi-Fi connected vehicles (cars, trucks and buses) in a full-scale test in the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Capable of communicating in real time thanks to a central platform equipped with a recording system, this major project, spread over a dozen months, should enable the researchers to gather enough data to transmit to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) so that they can determine the viability of their system.

With video recording facilities, vehicles could communicate with each other, with traffic signals that issue warnings when traffic jams form or when some kind of problem occurs in traffic. 

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"This is a big step for car safety. This leading-edge technology offers excellent opportunities to improve the safety and efficiency of our roads," said University Secretary LaHood.

We are not yet at the stage of driverless driving, but work is making great strides to make the world's traffic routes safer.

Researchers from the University of Southampton have just revealed that they are working on the use of traffic lights based on artificial intelligence, with the hope of being in service as early as the next generation. The research uses video games and simulations to evaluate different traffic control systems.

The Southampton team hopes to emulate the human approach with the software's new 'machine learning'. With cars already being tested on WiFi, mobile connectivity and onboard GPS for accident prevention, such a system could certainly have a lot of data to exploit. There is no indication as to when these tests will be viable in the real world, but this should reassure us that we are not yet in a position to be completely replaced by overlord robots.

(Source : / James Trew - August 2012)

feumurvirtuelAnother innovation: in South Korea, the designer Hanyoung Leea has imagined and conceptualized a "Virtual Wall". The basic principle is to represent a point in space (when pedestrians are allowed to cross) a limit not to be crossed. Since the centre of large conurbations is very often a source of visual pollution (the movement of other cars, the movement of pedestrians on pavements, lighting, billboards, etc.), this virtual wall would make it possible to radically focus the attention of motorists on the only thing that is important when the traffic light turns red: the pedestrian crossing and, above all, the pedestrians crossing it.

Other advances around the world

Between 1986 and 1994, the PROMETHEUS3 project was a European road safety research programme which, on the initiative of twelve car manufacturers, and focusing on the themes of the "intelligent vehicle" and the "intelligent road", had the primary objective of combating accidents and traffic jams. Using an anti-collision system, a cooperative driving system, a driver condition monitoring system and an intelligent speed control system with detection, the aim was to develop a system for estimating the distance between vehicles in order to avoid collisions and to make traffic flow more smoothly. The clearly technical orientation of this type of project carried out through the addition of systems is clearly visible.

Unfortunately, at the end of the project, the project had only limited results in terms of the marketing of aid systems, due to the lack of strong involvement of equipment and manufacturer manufacturers.

Initiated in 1988, the European SOCRATES (Acronym for System Of Cellular RAdio for Traffic Efficiency and Safety.) project developed a system for the bidirectional exchange of information between the motorist and an information centre based on GSM technology. This included information such as driver status, vehicle movement, real-time traffic conditions and routes. A driver monitoring function was also planned.

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The CARMINAT system, which stemmed from the EUREKA project (multilateral cooperation between European countries for R&D programmes launched in 1985), was designed "to develop a set of data acquisition, transmission and processing systems and a man-machine interface to provide drivers with consistent information".5 This project gave its name to the navigation assistance system now present in Renault vehicles.

The French project ARCOS (Acronym of Research Action for a Secure Conducting) conducted within the framework of PREDIT since 2002, develops a global approach to the "vehicle-driver-infrastructure" system. Its aim is to specify the most relevant forms of cooperation between the driver and automatic assistance devices to prevent accidents. It focuses on four types of situations in order to develop appropriate assistance to prevent obstacle collisions, to regulate gaps, to prevent road exits and to alert drivers to incidents and accidents upstream of the journey.

Other French projects, AIDA and ALZIRA are information exchange systems (AIDA: for Application pour l'Information Des Autoroutes. And ALZIRA for : Local Alerts in Accident Risk Areas). These are on-board information systems based on two-way vehicle-road exchanges. Their objective is to warn drivers when a temporary risk situation is approaching.

In the field of ISA (Intelligent Speed Adaptation), the French project LAVIA (Limiteur s'Adaptant à la Vitalesse Autorisée), initiated in 1999, aims to develop a prototype speed limiter that will itself manage speed by indexing the vehicle's speed by means of its satellite geolocation with reference to a database of speeds in force on the road section being travelled on the basis of digitised cartography6.

A system such as LAVIA takes the form of an intelligent speed limiter that frees the driver from programming by automatically reprogramming itself to the speed in force on the road section with the possibility for the driver to use it in different driving modes (informative, disengageable, permanent). The LAVIA system was the subject of a full-scale evaluation in 2005 showing its technical feasibility but pointing to a social acceptability still to be won. Since then, this project seems to have been put back in the box pending regulatory provisions leading to its integration on series production vehicles. A question of time?

Promote automotive innovations 

Beyond the design of innovative projects in the automotive industry, it is also a question of taking an interest in the marketing of technologies resulting from R&D in the automotive industry. As regards measures to accompany innovations (promotion), the e-safety working group, launched in 2002 by the European Commission, is carrying out actions both on the technical aspect (reliability, intervention methods) and on the social aspect with questions of understanding, adaptation to new systems and potential abuses.

Indeed, this body identifies ICTs as "the main instruments that should enable private sector actors to meet the road safety challenge". The group thus subscribes to the common objective of all ITS, i.e. the application of ICT in intelligent transport systems with a view to "making roads safer and more efficient".

The objective of this program is to support "the development by the industry of safer and smarter vehicles and to enable their rapid commercialization". It intends to take steps to intensify progress in primary safety (ABS, ESP), secondary safety (airbags, structure) and tertiary safety (emergency call) and telematics. Like what is already being done in Japan, the e-safety project is part of an approach to promote driving aids among consumers. The expected gains in road safety will be achieved by increasing the number of vehicles with safety equipment. To this end, the emphasis is placed on informing customers to influence their purchasing decisions when choosing a new vehicle.

Limits to ITS development 

Among the obstacles not to be underestimated in the implementation of ITS, and even without going that far, in the deployment of advanced driving aids, is the notion of legal liability in particular in the event of failure of the system or part of it. Automation of either the road system and/or the vehicle would make road managers and/or manufacturers (and equipment suppliers) liable in the event of an accident. However, the French Highway Code stipulates that "every moving vehicle or set of moving vehicles must have a driver". This is currently a major obstacle to further progress and researchers are working on the legal aspect in order to establish a legal framework for liability concerning the automatic vehicle.

The assumption of all or part of a task by a device raises the question of whether the driver is always a driver or whether he or she should be seen as the mere "keeper of the vehicle". In the latter case, the human provides surveillance and is a possible last resort in the event of a system failure. However, legal roadblocks can be removed quickly. And to take the example of the implementation of the automated sanction control in France in 2003, which was carried out at the charging station. All this raises the question of the political sphere's involvement in ensuring the deployment of advanced aid systems in the automotive sector. Even if the issue is eminently more complex here, the fact remains that when you want to, you can ...

(Source : thesis E. Pagès, "Sociological Approach to Instrumented Driving" 2008 / Chapter II.B.3.b. entitled "Pilot Experiments on Intelligent Transport Systems", pp.80-86. May 2012)

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