NIST: Auto collision warning systems not ready for prime time just yet

The National Institute of Standards and Technology said today that two car collision warning systems it is testing have passed most, but not all, performance tests.

According to NIST, the systems passed most of the more than 30 tests conducted this fall but the systems had some warning system problems in detecting whether forward vehicles were in-lane or out-of-lane on curves or during lane changes. NIST also measured significant warning delays that resulted in test failures. Such problems are common in automotive crash warning systems that must operate in real-time, at highway speeds, and use multiple low-cost sensors to measure complex three-dimensional scenes, NIST said.

NIST said the Department of Transportation still plans to trot out 20 cars and 10 trucks with the warning systems to volunteers for further real-world testing in 2008. The DOT formed a partnership with the automobile industry called the Integrated Vehicle Based Safety Systems (IVBSS) initiative to hasten deployment of advanced warning systems.  

The overarching goal of the IVBSS program is to combine existing safety and collision avoidance systems into an integrated system that can warn drivers of imminent crashes. A number of existing technologies are being utilized to address the three crash avoidance scenarios; these technologies will be further developed to work together to establish the integrated system:

·          Rear-end Collision Avoidance: GPS, digital mapping, forward looking radar, and on-board cameras are used to warn drivers that they may be approaching the vehicle ahead of them at too great a speed to stop before crashing.

·          Road Departure Collision Avoidance: vision based line tracking, and map-based road geometry, are used to warn drivers if they are about to drift off the road and crash into an obstacle, of if they are traveling too fast to for an upcoming curve.

·          Lane Change/Merge Collision Avoidance: forward, rear and side-looking radar and vision-based cameras are used to determine if it is safe for the driver to change lanes or merge into a lane from an entrance ramp.

All systems use software that monitors vehicle speed, braking and throttle output, and provide messages to the driver if necessary, according to the DOT Web site.

To evaluate the performance of the crash warning systems, which generally use radar, researchers needed an accurate measurement tool based on entirely different principles. NIST researchers developed an independent measurement system (IMS) consisting of a camera and microphone in the cab to detect the driver warning, a suite of calibrated cameras to measure the distance to lane boundaries and laser scanners to measure the distance to obstacles forward and to the side of the vehicle.

According to DOT, of the 3.6 million rear-end, running off the road  and lane change crashes that occur each year in the United States, 27,500 result in one or more fatalities--about three-quarters of the nation's yearly auto-related deaths. DOT estimates that widespread deployment of advanced integrated driver assistance systems may reduce such collisions by 48 %.  

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