Engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a laser-based system to improve the performance of car collision warning systems. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) also worked on this project. And the automotive industry will be able to use this technology to 'accelerate the development and commercialization of safety systems that alert drivers to multiple, and sometimes virtually simultaneous potential crash hazards -- both from forward or side collisions as well as from running off the road.' Even if such warning systems could avoid car accidents and save lives, how much such a system will cost? So far, the answer is unknown. But read more...
You can see above how your car would like if it was equipped with dual-head laser range scanners. (Credit: Various U.S. administrations)
Here are some details about what the researchers did. "To evaluate the performance of crash warning systems, which generally use radar, researchers needed an accurate measurement tool based on entirely different principles. NIST researchers developed an independent measurement system (IMS) consisting of a camera and microphone in the cab to detect the driver warning, a suite of calibrated cameras to measure the distance to lane boundaries and laser scanners to measure the distance to obstacles forward and to the side of the vehicle. The system can be mounted on cars or trucks with trailers and requires no modifications or connections to the warning system being tested. The NIST system can detect an object to within about eight-tenths of a meter from up to 60 meters away at speeds up to 25 m/s (within 33 inches at a distance of 197 feet and speeds up to 56 mph.)"
But how this system will be tested in the real world? "The next step calls for the IVBSS [Integrated Vehicle Based Safety Systems] to equip approximately 20 automobiles and 10 trucks with the warning systems. Volunteer motorists and truckers would be asked to use vehicles on the highway for a month. The DOT will analyze the data to refine estimates of benefit if these systems are deployed in most vehicles."
Researchers involved in this project include John Ference, of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Sandor Szabo, from NIST, and Wassim Najm, of the Volpe National Transportation System Center. Here is a link to the paper they wrote about it, "Objective Test Scenarios for Integrated Vehicle-based Safety Systems" (PDF format, 9 pages, 227 KB, published in 2007).
Here is the abstract. "This paper presents a set of crash-imminent test scenarios to objectively verify the performance of integrated vehicle-based safety systems designed to address rear-end, lane change, and run-off-road crashes for light vehicles and heavy trucks. National crash databases are analyzed to identify applicable pre-crash scenarios and guide development of trackbased test procedures that can be safely and efficiently carried out. Requirements for an independent measurement system to verify the crash warning system performance are also discussed."
This document features many figures showing various possible crashes and how this new laser-based system could help avoiding many of them. The photo above was picked from this paper.
Anyway, even if the DOT worked with the automotive industry on this project, automakers are always looking at costs. And I wonder what will be the price impact of such a device on a regular car. So don't think your next car will be equipped with a laser-collision-avoidance system before some time.
Sources: National Institute of Standards and Technology, November 27, 2007; and various websites
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