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Driver assistance systems for greater safety and efficiency

Vehicles to assist city drivers

Safely through the city despite the stress, thanks to new driving assistants (Photo: Ralf Hettler / istcokphoto)
Safely through the city despite the stress, thanks to new driving assistants (Photo: Ralf Hettler / istcokphoto)

All sorts of distractions and complex traffic situations make driving in the city particularly challenging. Researchers from academia and industry have joined forces in the UR:BAN project to develop new technologies to make urban driving safer and more efficient. For its part, Technische Universität München (TUM) wants to find out how vehicles can give useful advice to drivers without bombarding them with information.

Chaos at major intersections, confusing traffic lanes, pedestrians suddenly dodging the traffic: City drivers have to process a lot of information, make many split-second decisions and deal with constant distractions. Up to now though, driver assistance and traffic management technologies have mainly been designed for journeys on expressways and highways. But in a new project called UR:BAN (“Urban Space: User oriented assistance systems and network management”) thirty German research institutes, companies and city authorities are developing systems for safe, efficient and stress-free city driving.

In practice though, how can these technologies be designed so that they actually help the driver, rather than add to the distractions? What advice is really important? And how should it be presented to the driver? The researchers are therefore exploring a variety of options, including acoustic and visual signals and pedal vibrations. And that is not all they are focusing on. They  want to design “intelligent” vehicles capable of predicting driver behavior. Assistance systems could then help drivers anticipate problems and avoid collisions and other hazardous situations. To develop these new technologies, the researchers analyze the behavior of all kinds of road users. They are pioneering a new system that combines simulators for automobiles, trucks and pedestrians.