Path to safer driving

Ford has unveiled predictive technology in a bid to cut down on car accidents


Ford has unveiled automotive path prediction technology, a system developed under the PReVENT research project to make driving safer.

PReVENT is a European car industry project, co-funded by the EU to develop preventative and active road safety features for cars.

Path prediction, developed for frequently-driven routes, uses digital data from navigation systems — even when they are not being used — to support active safety features such as adaptive headlamps.

‘If you use a navigation system, it is easy to predict the car’s path,’ said the project’s lead engineer, Aria Etemad.

‘But most of the time, people don’t use it on regular journeys. The system uses historic data to be able to predict the path the car will take.’

With stored memory of numerous journeys, safety features can be applied earlier: adaptive headlamps will be able to illuminate bends sooner because they are not just relying on the steering angle; adaptive cruise control can take into account likely changes in speed; and lane control will remain working in tunnels, using data from digital maps and cameras.

‘The biggest challenge was how to store the information without using a huge database,’ said Etemad.

‘We had to use an algorithm to get it to work. The system works on three levels — perception, decision and action.

‘The data is collected using cameras, radar and digital mapping. The car’s on-board computer then processes this and an action is taken. We have shown it is feasible; now we have to carry over this knowledge and implement it in cars.’

So far, the driver is only given a warning by the system, although Etemad said braking control would be the next phase of the project.

He also believes that other systems, such as energy management, could benefit from the technology. For example, if it could be used to plan a ‘green route from A to B’, the information from the digital map could help to use less fuel.

Dr Wolfgang Schneider, Ford vice-president for legal, governmental and environmental affairs, said: ‘Apart from environmental issues, safety is the most important topic for the automotive industry. The past few decades have seen enormous progress in improving passive safety.

‘However, the most significant improvements in vehicle safety can be expected from the implementation of major new active safety systems, which are those helping drivers to avoid accidents,’ added Schneider.