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Driver assistance systems push auto navigation utility

Posted: 27 May 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:driver assistance systems? vehicle safety?

By Jonathon Husby
Tele Atlas

Consider this scenario: A distracted driver is in an unfamiliar city. Rushing to an appointment, the driver is busy sending a text message. The vehicle's navigation system had earlier given an alert of the need to be in the dedicated right turn lane in the upcoming intersection where he or she needs to exit. Attempting a quick lane change, onboard sensors prevent the driver from making a careless mistake and the vehicle's ABS system, reacting to road curve data from the navigation system, slows the vehicle to a safe speed. The navigation system then provides the driver a safe alternative to reach the destination on time.

Such Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are starting to come into the mainstream, but mapping providers, such as Tele Atlas, are being taxed to furnish the required data.

ADAS is coming of age, and given the fact that about 80 percent of all accidents are due to human error, the need for the technology has never been greater. Drivers face increasing challenges on the roadways!more traffic, and more rushed, distracted drivers trying to multitask while driving. Vehicles themselves are safer than ever with bricks-and-mortar technology like side-curtain and front airbags. Electronics are playing an increasing role in vehicle safety with probes, cameras, and sensors providing warning of danger in many situations.

Not just for location
Navigation systems are becoming an increasingly important component of the vehicle's overall safety system. Navigation devices today primarily assist drivers in unfamiliar areas with clear instructions, minimizing distraction caused by searching for road signs and landmarks. Such systems also help drivers make their way through complex intersections!giving them adequate time to correctly position themselves to execute a turn, where, for example, multiple freeways intersect and lane choice is critical to the driver not making a sudden, potentially dangerous move to reach the desired exit ramp in time.

But providing clear directions through unfamiliar territory only knocks on the door of the potential of these systems to contribute to overall safety. Detailed information about the road itself, including precise data on the road's position, contour and curvature, as well as dynamic traffic and road-construction information, can help provide a more complete picture of the way ahead to help drivers better understand current conditions and prepare for what is around the next corner.

In short, the ability to give the driver information about the situation at hand, to help he or she become more intimate and familiar with the surroundings, and help both driver and vehicle better react to current conditions, is the end game for ADAS. Mapping data is a critical component to reaching that goal.

Sophisticated data collection
From a data collection standpoint, Tele Atlas, for instance, is geared up to provide that information with a massive effort to collect new data and update existing data for more than a million miles of North American roadways to meet ADAS standards. Tele Atlas has nearly 50 Mobile Mapping vans traversing North American, European, and Asia Pacific roadways, each equipped with at least six cameras precisely capturing data in a 360-degree range. The quality of the images is superior and highly accurate which is especially vital when measuring attributes such as the height of bridges and length of tunnels.

Unlike aerial photographs or satellite images, such Tele Atlas maps are delivered as a vector database. That means streets, landmarks and signposts are modeled as a set of precise x and y coordinate pairs that represent the position of these objects in space and their spatial relationship to one another. The end result: Precise positional accuracy of those points and more detail, such as the exact curve a road takes, to better assist the driver and vehicle systems.

The vans also capture what drivers would notice!including names of roads, turnoffs, landmarks and speed limit changes. But more importantly, the vans use sophisticated electronics like 3D gyroscopes to capture slope and curvature information, bridge height and weight restrictions, tunnel restrictions and other roadway features that could have an impact on how a driver reacts to a particular situation. Tele Atlas Mobile Mapping vans capture data quickly, traveling at posted highway speeds, with advanced back-end processing methodologies helping process and package data efficiently and accurately.

These vans, combined with the more than 50,000 independent sources Tele Atlas uses to collect and update map data globally, help ensure that changes to map information (from new streets or points of interest to changes in traffic flows, restricted maneuvers, and speed restrictions and signage), which occur at a rate of approximately 10 to 15 percent a year on average (and can be much higher in high-growth areas) are as current as possible.

This wealth of data, sophisticated context-specific information that can be readily integrated with on-board electronics, is already having an impact on both vehicle safety and efficiency, and is anticipated to have far reaching effects on emerging ADAS applications.

The potential of these systems is tremendous. With map data providing the driver with a picture of the road ahead, the driver will have a better understanding of his or her surroundings, and the level of attention required to safely navigate upcoming situations. Is traffic stopped ahead? Does a sharp curve or steep grade lie ahead? Is a low overpass coming up? Is traffic merging from six lanes to two lanes to feed through an upcoming tunnel?

Taken to the next level, map data could potentially be combined with other situational information. Is the driver in an environment with many cars making lane changes? Is bad weather or darkness obscuring potential hazards? Is a particularly difficult high-speed merge coming up? Is the vehicle suddenly entering a zone with heavy pedestrian traffic?

This information has the potential to help both the vehicle and the driver optimize performance and safety in a wide variety of situations. The possibilities hold tremendous benefit as the ability of map data to communicate with the vehicle's various safety systems grows and matures. When entering a dangerous curve for example, map data containing roadway slope and curvature geometry could interact with the vehicle's stability control and ABS systems, not only warning the driver of the hazard ahead, but taking action like slowing the vehicle down.

Better information enhances systems
The auto industry is on the verge of a new level of safety and economic performance. As the quantum leaps in the collection and distribution of map and related environmental data continue, and the sophistication of on-board electronics grows, the convergence of the two will have a great impact on the behavior of both driver and vehicle.

Adaptive cruise control, advanced pedestrian identification, predictive lighting, transmission assistance, intersection collision warning, land and road departure warning, front and rear collision warning, and braking and stability control assistance are just some of the potential advanced driver assistance applications on the horizon!and all depend on accurate and up-to-date map data.

Looking further into the future, these systems have the potential to raise the driver's awareness to a potential hazard and take pre-emptive action, preventing the driver for example, from taking a telephone call in the midst of a dangerous situation.

The goal of increased safety through better information and technology is at hand. Map providers like Tele Atlas are investing in technology and taking an aggressive stance to deliver current, accurate, and detailed road and environmental data necessary to these systems. And as that data converges with sophisticated on-board technologies like sensors, cameras, and other electronics, drivers will be rewarded with optimized performance and awareness of various road situations that will likely have an impact in reducing the number of accidents (and insurance costs) due to driver distraction and error.

About the author
Jonathon Husby
is VP of automotive, telematics and transportation for Tele Atlas.

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