The automobile is evolving more rapidly than it has for many decades. New active vehicle safety and driver-assistance technologies are being developed by all of the leading auto manufacturers.
Historically, these new technologies have been kept under wraps until ready for market but Volkswagen recently presented the media with an outline of nine future systems it has under development, offering an insight into the car of the not-too-distant future.
These new technologies have the potential to enhance road safety in much the same way as electronic stabilization programs (ESP) have most recently shown. According to Volkswagen Research, ESP can reduce the risk of a driver losing control by as much as 80 per-cent.
Systems currently being developed by Volkswagen include:
1. Automatic Emergency Brake Assist (ANB)
Work is ongoing to refine the automatic emergency brake assist on the basis of engineering solutions already being applied in series production. Vehicles featuring this system will be equipped with the radar sensor used in automatic distance control systems. This sensor provides information on the distance to the vehicle ahead or to any obstacles. If the ANB concludes that a braking manoeuvre could reduce the impact of an impending accident, it will initiate a hard stop in order to keep the severity of the accident to a minimum.
2. Lane Departure Warning System (LDW)
According to analysis undertaken by the Volkswagen Accident Research Unit, 18 per cent of all accidents are attributable to drivers veering off the road. To counteract this phenomenon, Volkswagen is close to completing a system called lane departure warning system (LDW). This system uses in-car cameras to identify a vehicle's position in relation to lane boundary markings. If the vehicle deviates too strongly from its ideal course of travel, the system sends an audible alarm to the driver.
3. Attention Control System
As 25 per cent of road deaths can be attributed to the sleepiness of drivers, Volkswagen's attention control system will certainly save lives. This system uses an in-car camera to eliminate the risk of driver inattentiveness by monitoring the driver's blinking movements. If the system perceives the driver to be at risk of sleepiness, it sounds an audible alarm - alerting the driver to take a rest or other measures (such as swapping drivers) to maintain safe travel.
4. Traffic Signs Recognition System
Prescribed speed limits and other Government warning signs can often change during travel along any road. The traffic signs recognition system being developed by Volkswagen Group Research will offer a new quality of comfort and safety in this area. The system receives a signal from each applicable road sign and sends an audible or digital message to the driver.
5. Automatic Distance Control (ADC)
Already used in Volkswagen's super-luxury Phaeton model, the system is activated when it detects the need for driver response (following the vehicle in front too closely). The next generation ADC +F2S (F2S = follow to stop) will, if necessary, automatically bring the vehicle to a full stop behind the vehicle ahead. It will also be possible to generate a collision warning, to brake ahead of a stationary obstacle, to identify bends in the road and to perform light braking manoeuvres ahead of curves.
6. Integral Handling Control
The job of the integral handling control system is to integrally regulate all active components (drive, brakes, steering, running gear) in any given situation. What makes this system so revolutionary in comparison to today's active vehicle stability control systems - primarily in borderline situations - is the continued optimization of vehicle handling (for example in an emergency situation, it automatically swaps the suspension from 'comfort' to 'sports' setting for sharper response).
7. Assisted/Automatic Parking
A system developed by Volkswagen Group Research allows the driver to choose between the assisted or automatic parking features. As the vehicle passes a parking spot, the system ascertains the dimensions of the available space and of any obstacles. Once it has evaluated this sensory data, it automatically calculates the ideal parking manoeuvre. The driver then presses the button which activates the parking assistant and the car steers itself into the space in reverse gear.
8. Perception Of Vehicle Surroundings
This system provides a holistic model of the vehicle environment using all available sensory data to record a complete take of all surroundings (360 degrees). The data generated provides a picture of the ambient setting and the given situation in such a way that the driver assistance systems will be able to identify any risks (eg blind spots before a lane change).
9. Enhanced Night Vision
A part of the perception of vehicle surroundings system is the enhanced night vision system that uses a infa-red unit to identify pedestrians or any other possible sources of hazard and informs the driver of their position, distance from the vehicle and potential risk of a collision.
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