Monday, October 16, 2006
Car technology: intelligence soon to surpass most drivers! Check it out
A car that knows the speed limit
10/16/2006 10:16:28 AM, by Nate Anderson
If you've ever found yourself driving in unfamiliar territory, wondering if you are exceeding the speed limit, Siemens VDO has developed a new system that could help you out—in a few years. It's an "electronic traffic sign recognition function" that uses cameras and special software to scan the road ahead for speed limit signs, which the system can identify and then display on the dashboard.
Drivers who are going too fast are warned with a visual signal, but are allowed to continue driving at whatever speed they like. The system can also be tied in with the adaptive cruise control, in which case the car will speed up or slow down to match changes in the speed limit.
Siemens, showing its European focus, says that it wants to help drivers solve a common problem: "is there a speed limit or not?" While this isn't usually what US drivers are wondering, it's easy to blow past limit signs when you're doing 140mph through Austria—and consequently to ring up large traffic tickets when a speed limit suddenly comes into force and Austria's finest have set up a sting a quarter-mile past the sign. Not that I would know.
Siemens VDO now supplies a whole host of such electronic gadgetry to the automobile industry. Last month, for instance, it introduced a Driver Attention System targeted at truck drivers. The DAS uses a small camera and an infrared light to continuously illuminate the driver's features, while software evaluates factors such as head movement and number of eye blinks to determine whether the driver is growing sleepy. If so, the system vibrates the seat. If drowsiness continues, the truck sounds a tone that swells in volume until the driver becomes more alert.
With one if every four German accidents exacerbated by drowsiness, it sounds like cool technology, and Siemens has plans to bring it to cars next. The company says that after further development, it should be possible to combine the Driver Attention System with adaptive cruise control and Siemens' Lane Departure Warning systems so that a car with a sleepy driver could continue at full speed while staying in its lane until the driver grows more alert.
The DAS will soon be available to truck manufacturers, while the speed limit recognition system will make its debut in 2008. No word yet on which companies might use the technology in their vehicles.