Until the arrival of the automobile, people used horses to travel long distances. Horses have excellent senses of sight, smell and hearing, and are also very alert. But even more than this, one of the advantages to traveling by horse is that the horse will tell you when there is danger. In this way, it was safer to travel if you had the judgment of your horses to back up your own.
In the same way, the latest cars are being designed to electronically “judge” certain situations and when possible provide feedback and/or assistance to the driver.
Accurate monitoring. Accurate judgment
In Safety Shield Vol.1 we looked at how a car today is aware of certain situations. For example, for the Emergency Brake technology, the car is constantly monitoring the distance between itself and the car in front. Well, the next stage after awareness is judgment.
Let’s use the example of technology that is aware of the distance between a car and another car traveling in front of it. It understands when the distance between the vehicles suddenly decreases and then if the system determines there is a high risk of collision, it will automatically apply the brakes to help prevent a collision.
Nissan has developed three safety technologies that can serve as examples of how vehicle systems can make judgments in certain situations.
One of these systems is Lane Departure Warning (LDW), which can detect lane markings on the road and the location of the vehicle. When the driver seems to be straying unintentionally out of his or her travel lane, LDW alerts the driver via a visual and audible warning.
If the driver had used the turn signal and fully turned the steering wheel in order to change lanes, then the system can judge that in this situation the lane departure is intentional and will not give a warning.
The second technology we will look at is Blind Spot Warning (BSW), which can see if there is a car traveling diagonally behind the driver’s vehicle—an area that is often difficult to check properly using just the rear-view mirror or side-view mirrors. If the driver turns on the turn signal and starts to move into a lane where there is another vehicle, the system will judge if there is a possibility of a collision, and alert the driver by a flashing indicator as well as an audible signal.
Our last example is Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication, which can help detect walls and other large obstacles around the car. The system can judge if the accelerator pedal has been stepped on by mistake in some situations, such as when a driver accelerates while there is an obstacle in their direction of travel. It provides the driver with a visual and audible alert, as well as suppressing acceleration. If it then determines there is still a risk of collision with the obstacle, it can engage automatic braking.
Enhancing the driver’s confidence
It goes without saying that the whole premise of driving safely rests on operating the vehicle in a way that a human driver judges to be correct. But adding the car’s own ability to make judgments helps the driver’s confidence and peace of mind.
When driving you encounter all kinds of scenarios, and to navigate them all safely requires drivers to make the right judgment while having an accurate grasp on their surroundings. Car technology that is aware of certain circumstances around the vehicle, combined with the technology to help make decisions based on this analysis, will surely continue to evolve as technologies develop.