After driving the same route to and from work every day shouldn't your car know every bump in the road? Every curve? Every blind intersection and speed trap? Ford agrees, and is working with several partners to develop an automotive system that uses navigation and GPS systems to learn the dangers of oft-driven roads.
Ford of Europe recently presented its ideas to the PReVENT group. Ford envisions a car that learns where danger lurks and helps the driver avoid it. Once the car knows where you swerve or slow down, it would anticipate those moves and, if you didn't act quickly enough, would take action without your input. Or if there is a particularly bad curve in your route, refocus the headlights seconds before you reach it to make the turn safer.

Ford admits in its press release (in full after the jump) the technology has a long way to go before showing up on a Monroney, but it has already begun trying to anticipate legal hurdles like how quickly and to what extent the system would step in.

The PReVENT project is part of the European Union's Intelligent Car Initiative that's working toward safer, less-polluting cars and its partners include DaimlerChrysler, Audi, BMW, Renault, Volvo, Volkswagen and numerous suppliers and technology companies.

PRESS RELEASE

AACHEN/VERSAILLES, September 18 2007 – Ford's European Research Centre based in Aachen, Germany, today presented its results for PReVENT, a joint research project co-funded by the EU Commission for improved road safety by means of innovative active safety systems.

Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, opened the PReVENT conference and exhibition on the MOVEO test track in Versailles, France. More than 800 representatives from the fields of politics, the media and industry were expected to join this five-day event to experience and test a range of innovative active safety systems.

Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Vice President Legal, Governmental and Environmental Affairs for Ford of Europe, said: "Apart from environmental issues, safety is today 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. For this, joint efforts between motor vehicle manufacturers and the other stakeholders are essential at the earliest possible stage. Without the funding and support from the EU and its coordinating role, projects like PReVENT would not be possible either to this extent or with such success."

Within the framework of PReVENT, Ford demonstrated how digital data from navigation systems can be used to support future active safety systems in cars.

For example, by using the detailed digital map data, the vehicle "recognises" potential hazard areas and prepares itself to react accordingly. Lane keeping systems, in particular, will benefit from the additional information provided by digital map data. These systems usually are led by cameras recording lane markings. If the latter are deficient or missing, e.g. in slip roads or intersections, the cameras alone can not function properly. In such situations, the digital data provides the necessary and accurate information to allow the lane keeping system to continue to function.

'Path Prediction' is an additional feature which enhances the use of the digital map data from the navigation system. It is generated by analysing the daily route pattern of a driver. Through probability calculation, the on-board computer "learns and knows" the route in advance as most people travel the same one every day. This pool of experience helps the on-board computer to focus on the relevant information and to ignore the unimportant data of the surroundings. This makes the information provided by the navigation system more efficient, more accurate and available faster. (In case the driver does not follow the predicted route, the active safety systems will only consider the recorded data on the navigation system.)

For example, path prediction could further enhance a vehicle's adaptive headlamp system which currently is controlled by the steering angle. In the future, the on-board computer would learn the angle of curves on the route in advance and thus would be able to light the curve at a very early stage. In the occasion of complete darkness or poor visibility due to bad weather conditions, the adaptive lighting system could make a significant contribution to route guidance.

In addition to the technical issues, PReVENT has also addressed legal issues, to define when and to what extent the different active safety systems may interfere with the driver's autonomy.

PReVENT (PReVENTive and Active Safety Applications) is a four-year research project which will end in January 2008, and forms part of the 6 th Framework Programme of "Information Society Technologies".

In total, 54 partners from industry as well as from public and private institutions participated, including automobile manufacturers and suppliers, electronics manufacturers, information technology and software companies as well as research institutes and public authorities.

With a budget of over 55 million Euros, the PReVENT consortium developed new preventive and active safety applications and sophisticated driver information systems based on advanced intelligent technologies. The funding from the European Commission covered approximately 50 per cent of the costs.

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