Nissan is developing Darwin-defying in-car technology capable of detecting when old people and bad drivers head the wrong way down highway on-ramps. The system could also detect impending collisions with cell phone-carrying pedestrians.
Both systems use GPS to determine the precise location and direction of travel of a vehicle, and then determine if a dangerous situation is imminent. In the case of the wrong way warning system, it’s simply a case of recording the position and direction of ramps in map databases, then equipping cars with some sort of warning device.
The pedestrian collision warning system is a bit more complicated, relying on those pedestrians carrying GPS-enabled cell phones. The location, direction and speed of those cell phones will be compared to the location, direction and speed of GPS-equipped cars, if the possibility of an impact is detected it will trigger an alert within the vehicle.
Technology already exists from other manufacturers to automatically slow cars when a potential collision with another vehicle is detected by on-board radar. Unfortunately, in the case of the Mercedes Fog system, it's not always successful. It’s conceivable that the two technologies could be combined to create virtually collision-proof cars. Indeed, that’s the direction automakers like Volvo are hoping to go in the future with vehicles that could do without any physical impact protection in favor of car-to-car, car-to-pedestrian and car-to-road communication. While previously manufactures saw that communication taking place directly via radio transmissions, this development could point towards GPS and communications satellites facilitating its implementation.
Us? We’ll just be keeping our eyes open.
The press release follows:
January 26, 2009
West NEXCO and Nissan Begin Joint Research on IT-Assisted Road Information System
- Research Alliance to Build a System for Accident Prevention and Road Information -
West Nippon Expressway Co., Ltd. (West NEXCO) and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. today announced a cooperative effort to research systems to help prevent accidents and furnish road information to drivers. West NEXCO, which operates expressways in western Japan, and Nissan will enhance and complement existing information systems using information technology (IT) to provide road and traffic condition information to help improve safety and driving comfort on expressways.
The joint project will take advantage of the widespread use and multi-functionality of today's cellular phones. The system will use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a detailed map database to warn drivers about a number of potentially dangerous situations and conditions - including driving the wrong way on expressway ramps, which frequently causes serious accidents. Responding to frequent occurrences of wrong-way driving with the increase in senior citizen drivers, West NEXCO set up a project team in May 2008 to address this issue as it considered the possibility of joint research with automakers and others using information technology.
The IT-assisted road information system will also employ telematics to help warn drivers about unintended speed changes on ramps and long downhill stretches to help prevent accidents and congestion. Nissan and West NEXCO will also undertake research to assist drivers with probe data on traffic jams, part of West NEXCO's goal of working to help establish total road safety and comfort.
For its part, Nissan has been working extensively with its Intelligent Transportation Systems to halve the number of fatal and injury accidents involving Nissan cars between 1995 and 2015. Through its SKY project it is developing a vehicle communication system linked with traffic infrastructure to help reduce accidents at intersections. Nissan has been conducting large-scale testing of an information system that furnishes drivers with information on pedestrians using communications between vehicles and GPS cell phones held by pedestrians. It has also established a service that warns drivers of icy conditions ahead.
An outline of the joint research project follows:
Joint R&D Using GPS
A new computer application and detailed map data in the car navigation system will be combined with GPS data to help give the driver audio and visual warnings when the car is going the wrong way on a ramp near a service area or interchange.
Joint R&D Using Telematics
Text warnings will appear on the car's navigation display: "Beware of speeding" on long downhill stretches where accidents are common, and "Beware of slowing" near ramps prone to congestion.
Driver Assistance Using Probe Data
Probe data from road-control centers will be better utilized to provide value-added information to vehicles on expressways.
Press Demonstration on Wrong-Way Driving Detection Using GPS and Car Navigation System
The team will conduct experiments to test detection and reporting of wrong-way driving by reprogramming the existing Nissan navigation system and simulating driving the wrong way on a rest-area exit ramp. The experiment will also be open to the press, along with a driving demonstration. The details will be informed later.