• Jun 5th 2009 at 4:29PM
  • 25
Senior citizens who are at heightened risk for heart attack and strokes or those with diabetes often stop driving to keep both themselves and other motorists safe in the event that they have a medical issue while behind the wheel. Others ignore the risk factors and continue to drive until something happens to themselves or others, while still others often suffer completely unforeseen medical events. Regardless of whether you are young or old, sick or healthy, BMW is working on a new safety system called Emergency Stop Assistant which will safely bring one's vehicle to a stop during a medical calamity.

According to BMW, its new experimental system will sense medical dangers for the driver. When a serious medical issue is detected, the system will switch over to an autonomous driving mode to safely stop the vehicle out of harm's way. The system is currently in development, and it promises to turn on the hazard lights, utilize radar tech to navigate the Bimmer through traffic, then slow the vehicle to a stop once it finds the shoulder. BMW's existing Extended Emergency Call system would then call emergency services and provide the location of the vehicle. The system, if brought to production, could save lives while also giving those with medical issues peace of mind.

BMW is testing its Emergency Stop Assistant system as part of Smart Senior, a project launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany. Official press release after the jump.

[Source: BMW]


Stopping safely in an emergency.

Munich. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany recently launched a research project titled "SmartSenior – intelligent services for senior citizens" which aims to make life in old age easier and safer. Among the areas the initiative focuses on are intelligent, location-independent emergency recognition and assistance systems which allow senior citizens to feel safe and secure on the road. BMW Group Research and Technology is involved in the SmartSenior initiative through the development of an Emergency Stop Assistant, which enhances road safety in the event of a medical emergency.

Safety in an emergency.

Older people with intermittent cardiovascular problems frequently no longer trust their abilities at the wheel. This doubt stems from the fear of suffering heart or circulation-related problems while driving which might cause them to lose control of their vehicle and trigger a serious accident. It leads to a loss of personal mobility and, by consequence, a considerable drop in independence and quality of life – especially for those living in rural areas. These issues also affect people suffering certain health-related limitations such as diabetes. As Ralf Decke, project manager for SmartSenior at BMW Group Research and Technology, explains: "Our primary aim is to avoid accidents caused by a health-related loss of control – or at least to reduce the severity of such accidents."

To this end, the engineers have set out to develop an assistance system which automatically activates an autonomous driving mode when it detects that the driver has a serious medical problem, and carries out a controlled emergency stop. In simple terms, the car switches on the hazard warning lights and manoeuvres carefully – taking into account the traffic around it – to the outer edge of the road, before drawing to a standstill. At the same time, an emergency call is sent out containing the data required to initiate the necessary medical and traffic-related assistance measures. This enables the provision of effective emergency care tailored to the situation at hand. "In order to keep a limit on the variety of possible driving situations, which vary infinitely in complexity, we are developing the prototype of our Emergency Stop Assistant initially for use on motorways and sections of roads resembling motorways," explains Decke.

System based on existing driver assistance systems and Extended Emergency Call from BMW ConnectedDrive.

The emergency stop assistance system is based both on sensors designed to monitor vital data and on existing BMW ConnectedDrive assistance systems. The BMW Group has, for example, offered an emergency call function for ten years now. In addition to precise position location and information on the vehicle, since spring 2007 the emergency call has also included information on the accident the vehicle has been involved in. The rescue services are therefore not only able to pinpoint where the vehicle is located and to identify it by model and colour, they also have information on the number of occupants in the vehicle and the severity of any injuries. An intelligent algorithm calculates this information from data supplied by the sensors of passive safety systems (airbags, seatbelts etc.). In the future it will also be possible to pass on vital physiological data to the emergency services via this network of technology. The SmartSenior project also focuses on establishing valid vital data – here, other project partners such as Siemens and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin take the lead role, ensuring that the required help is quickly at hand.

Assistance systems such as the Lane Departure Warning system and Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function provide a further technological basis for the development of the emergency stop system.

Content of the Emergency Stop Assistant project.

In addition to the clarification of the legal framework, another early stage of the process involves the key development of new algorithms to register and interpret the environment around the vehicle. Here, particular focus is centred on achieving reliable localisation of the vehicle within its lane through the fusion of redundant sensors, the recognition of objects in the area surrounding the vehicle and the development of an electronic coordinator, which in an emergency takes all strategic driving decisions – instead of the driver – and passes them on to the relevant interfaces governing the longitudinal and lateral position of the vehicle.

BMW Group Research and Technology
BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BMW AG and has been responsible for research at the BMW Group since 2003. VehicleTechnology, CleanEnergy (hydrogen technology), EfficientDynamics (intelligent energy management/alternative drive systems), ConnectedDrive (driver assistance/active safety) and ITDrive (IT and communications technology) activities all come under its umbrella. Its legal independence as a GmbH (limited company) ensures creative freedom and unbeatable flexibility. The Managing Director of BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH is Prof. Raymond Freymann. Worldwide access to trends and technologies is provided by an established international network with bases in the USA (Palo Alto, CA and Clemson, SC) and Japan (Tokyo), plus Liaison Offices in France with Eurécom (Sophia Antipolis) and in Germany in the shape of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI GmbH) in Saarbrücken.

The SmartSenior project.
"SmartSenior – intelligent services for senior citizens" is a development project bringing together a total of 29 renowned partners from the fields of research and industry. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting this alliance to the tune of EUR 25 million as part of its high-tech strategy for Germany.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      This may be a flop as a medical feature, but it will come into it's own when law enforcement gets access to the system. No more evading 50 in a BMW.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds expensive AND useless.

      They'll probably make it federally mandated.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This sounds like a big fail.

        • 6 Years Ago
        yes, but how does it save you from initially buying an "SAV"?
        • 6 Years Ago
        BMW should rename the system...the BMW AmbuNanny.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Enough is enough. Really, this is getting ridiculous. How many more gadgets and electronics we don't need are they going to think up and cram into modren cars to add weight, electrical draw, complexity, things-to-go-wrong, and cost, all while taking away driver control and the owner's ability to fix their own car.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Quit whining, this system doesn't take control away from you unless your heart friggin' stops pumping blood or you lose consciousness so how is it an electro-nanny? You're not driving if you're slumped over on your steering wheel, you're just a 2-ton projectile aimed randomly at that point.

        As a doctor I'd LOVE to have the patient come in with only a diabetic coma to take care of instead of being in a diabetic coma and also having half their bones broken because they swerved into oncoming traffic. And probably have less patients to take care of too, since grandpa didn't swerve into a car filled with some family coming home from grocery shopping. Assuming that everyone isn't just dead to begin with.

        I wouldn't want this system taking away my control when I'm fine, but what's wrong with your car not plowing you into oncoming traffic if you pass out? Lots of people have diabetes or heart problems, especially in the United States, and I don't those people plowing into my car or my kids' cars or whatever. Jeez.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Taking away driver control is what the insurance companies want, ridding the owner's ability to fix his own car is what the dealers want, and adding options to raise the price is what the manufacturers want. How much more of this are we going to get? Lots.
      • 6 Years Ago
      When the robots take over, this will be seen in hindsight as a really bad idea.

      My neighbors will then quit bitchin' about my 1975 Jeep Truck, and start asking for help.

      It's never to early to plan ahead.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't think this technology is the solution, but there is a problem here.

      Far too many people continue on their merry way when an EMT vehicles comes by, whether on purpose or because they're preoccupied/listening to music too loud/etc.

      It endangers the lives of firefighters, police officers, and paramedics--not to mention the people they're responding to.

      It's not that hard. The moment you hear a siren, pull safely to the side of the road and stop. Wait a few moments until the vehicle passes, then continue. If you're at an intersection, stop. It's far easier for an EMT vehicle driver to maneuver around you, and if you're in the way, they'll indicate for you to move.

      How would you feel if they were responding to someone you know? It's not going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things to lose 30 seconds sitting at the side of the road.

      In BC (finally) they've just made this a law. Rightly so. Hopefully they enforce it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Okay... that's a clear "d'oh" moment for me.

        Chalk it up to a Friday afternoon (as opposed to my current state of incompetence).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not disagreeing with what you're talking about, but....Be honest, did you read the title but not the article?

        The vehicle that stops is the one where the driver is having the medical emergency...to try and prevent an accident.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Really? I have found the exact oppisite to be true. Around here, if an ambulance siren can be heard 5 miles away in the distance across town all traffic will frantically try to get off the road and stay there until the siren can't be heard any more. It is rather annoying and somewhat dangerous.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What a tragedy this will be for movie car chases... Imagine how boring things will be when cars don't accelerate into walls and off of bridges as their drivers are incapacitated by flying bullets. =[
      • 6 Years Ago
      And have a Mercedes come pick you up.
        • 6 Years Ago
        A for observation.
        • 6 Years Ago
        haha exactly the bmw will kill you and mercedes will save you
      • 6 Years Ago
      And with a slight tweak the autonomous system, it will also take over driving the vehicle once it senses the driver is an idiot behind the wheel.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The picture can be misleading. At first I thought it was a system that will forcibly stop your vehicle when there's an ambulance. Good thing I read the few paragraphs to find out it for the system to stop your car if you're the one having a medical emergency.

      I'm not seeing why the hate for this potential system. I could be wrong, but wouldn't a stopped vehicle with hazards on be safer than a running vehicle with a dead/dying/unconscious driver?
      • 6 Years Ago
      what they don't show is the high tech carjacker .. the police car .. or the military under martial law ..
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great. Now grandpa's 7 series will stop itself in the middle of the highway so he doesn't have to.
      I suppose that's better than running it through a convenience store.
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