BMW's driver assistance technology may prevent car accidents

Summary:The "left hand drive assistant" uses a combination of three laser scanners, a video camera and GPS to determine if a left turn the driver is about to make is unsafe.

One of the riskiest legal driving maneuvers are left turns where drivers attempt to cut across oncoming traffic.

In these situations, the impetus is put on the driver to judge accurately whether it's safe to make a turn. Now BMW has begun road testing of a driver's assistance technology for cars that can prevent a collision if the driver ends up making a potentially dangerous mistake.

The "left hand drive assistant" uses a combination of three laser scanners, a video camera and GPS to determine if a left turn the driver is about to make is unsafe. When the system senses this, it automatically slams on the brakes and alerts the driver by generating a warning sound accompanied by flashing signals.

Here's a brief rundown of how each component of this innovative safety feature works:

  • A video camera installed at the bottom of the car recognizes left turn arrows and lane borders that indicate if the vehicle is in the left turn lane.
  • A GPS that can pinpoint the location of a vehicle up to one meter is also used to determine if the vehicle is in a left turn lane.
  • Once the detection system confirms that the driver is about to turn left, it activates a laser system that scans up to 100 meters ahead for oncoming traffic.
  • The left turn assistant feature is designed to only goes into effect when the vehicle is moving at speeds of up to 6 mph so that accidental braking doesn't occur when the vehicle isn't making a left turn.

BMW's driver assistant is only one of several hi-tech projects in the works that may help reduce car accidents . Back In January, SmartPlanet's Andrew Nusca reported on a "Superstreet" concept for intersections that reduces the likelihood of left-turn accidents by forcing drivers to turn right, then make a U-turn around a broad median to go west.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is also experimenting with a system that uses multi-directional WiFi technology to detect potential collisions and then alert the driver with a series of beeping noises and flashing red lights. And for those who think it's probably best to take human drivers out of the equation entirely, Google has developed self-driving cars that may soon become street legal in Nevada.

While these new ideas hold promise for a smarter and safer transportation experience, it does beg the question: are we putting too much faith in the hands of technology?

I'd be curious to hear what SmartPlanet readers think.

(via BMW Blog)

Image: BMW

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This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of He holds degrees from the University of California... Full Bio

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