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Intelligent cars: automated systems on display in Versailles September 15, 2007

Posted by dorigo in computers, internet, news, science, travel.

I received from my friend Mauro da Lio, who is director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in Trento, a press release on the new drive assist systems they have helped develop, and which will be on display in Versailles (France) next week. I thought it useful to make it available here, so I proceeded in translating it. Please find it below.

PReVENT: “the intelligent” automobile. The University of Trento among the partners of the European project.

The best european brains in a combined plan on sensors and technologies of the future for driving safety. A support to the driver.

Trento, September 14th 2007 – More than 40 thousand deaths per year in street incidents in the 15 member states and a social cost that reaches 2% of the GNP of the European Union. A budget that has currently brought the topic of street and transports safety -also the object of a recent white book published by the European Union- to the daily agenda in the priority programs of research and technological development of the VIIth framework program.

The European project PReVENT, started in February 2004, addresses this issue. Its main objective is of giving life to a system, inside the vehicle, supporting the driver with the aim of preventing street incidents or mitigating their effects. Among the 52 partners is the University of Trento, with its laboratory of automatic mechanics of the department of mechanical and structural englneering , which has developed technics of automatic drive planning for the european project. The 32 vehicles that will demonstrate live the various technologies of active and preventive safety developed in the plan will be on display in Versailles from the 18th to the 22nd of September.

The new generation of transport means that take advantage of the automatic driving systems have the following goals: inform the driver in real time of impending danger, prevent errors, suggest corrected actions, assist actively or even take over control before the incident. In particular, the new technologies will facilitate keeping a safety distance and safe speed during curves and with respect to other vehicles, they will help driving within a lane, assist during lane changes, help avoid hitting pedestrians or cyclists and improve safety in crossings, they will anticipate the action of lifesaving systems (airbag, safety belts etc.) in the case of imminent collisions.

The intelligent systems developed in PReVENT are organized in three functional blocks: understanding, planning, action. The understanding of the surroundings is realized in the phase of reconstruction of the scenery, in which information coming from a large number of sensors is “fused” in a model of the area. The planning consists in the elaboration of the driving plan most suitable to the situation. The action consists above all in the realization of suitable warnings to the driver in the case of discrepancies with respect to the ideal behavior (most of all with tactile interfaces) or directly in an automatic intervention of the system.

For the reconstruction of the scenery the new systems will take advantage of various types of sensors (inertial, acoustic, proximity, virtual -that is, connected with those of other vehicles -, with maps and systems such as GPS), infrared beams, radars or video cameras. These technologies will allow to read out in real time the surrounding area, detecting the presence of obstacles, pedestrians or others potential dangers, also by collecting information (on traffic jams, incidents, work zones, speed limits) via wireless from other vehicles or from the same infrastructures (roads and street signs endowed with sensors). In the planning phase, once the scenery is determined, the risks are evaluated and a safer driving plan is foreseen, which is transmitted to the system interfacing with the driver. The last link foresees an interaction with the driver: a still unavoidable part, which must be handled in the most immediate and natural way. To that aim tactile interfaces are unsed (an increase in the pressure on the steering or on the gas pedal, a vibration of the seat belt) and/or visual and acoustic (led or luminous pointers on the dashboard or the mirrors) that will inform the driver of the danger.

The PReVENT project has been divided, in its first phase, in a number of subprojects each addressing a specific part of the safety plan:

  • long distance safety: project WILLWARN (communication between vehicles, obstacles behind a curve, poor visibility, road work);
  • medium distance safety: project SASPENCE (to keep a safety distance and speed, longitudinal dynamics), SAFE LANE and LATERAL SAFE (to avoid undesired changes of lane, and/or to assist in the intentional changes of lane)
  • pre-incident safety and pedestrian collisions: projects APALACI, COMPOSE and UseRCams sensors (to amplify the braking, pre-tension of belts, pre-alert of airbags)
  • safety in the crossings: plan INTERSAFE with sensors aboard the vehicle (communication with street lights, prevention of hazardous maneuvers).

The second phase of the PReVENT project, which is still open, has aimed instead at the integration of all these areas of intervention. Specifically, in the INSAFES project several measures designed to increase longitudinal and lateral safety of vehicles tuned in several previous studies have been integrated. The developments to which researchers are working will allow the drivers, for instance, to stay on the road, overtake, and change lane in full safety.

For more detail contact Mauro da Lio, Department of mechanical and structural englneering – Laboratory of mechanics and automation, mauro.dalio(at)ing.unitn.it

IP Exhibition, Versailles: see http://www.prevent-ip.org/en/prevent_subprojects/horizontal_activities/ip_exhibition/ip_prevent_exhibition.htm PReVENT Plan: http://www.prevent-ip.org


1. riqie arneberg - September 15, 2007

Long overdue! For starters, we ought to let turnpikes have (overrideable) control over speed. We have had the technology to do this for decades. Impatient lane changers slow everyone down, including themselves, and create a hazard as well. The system could control speed, but allow driver to override with gas pedal/brakes, at which point traffic police would be notified. This provides for possible system errors, but alerts police of possible violaters as well.

Ultimately the driver should be eliminated entirely, allowing him to sit back and sip a scotch while the car takes him to his destination.

2. Mauro Da Lio - September 15, 2007

Systems like these are moving robots. They must have some sensorial system, intelligence to understand the environment (make a “metal” model of it), intelligence to make plans (what to do, how to drive safely), and human interfaces (if the human must be in the loop) or automatic intervention.
Interestingly these systems have the same drawbacks as the humans (they have allucinations (false alarms), or they miss recognizing objects) and they may also fail. The roadmap for robots smarter that “attentive” drivers is still long. Now we all hope they may help preventing distractions and unattentive driving which is ultimately the cause of 95% of all accidents.
One day we will have a car which we will tell: “please martha (maybe my car will be named that way) bring me to the shopping centre downton”… but that is still future.

3. dorigo - September 15, 2007

Yes, I also look forward to a future when the car will be my slave and do the driving for me… However, I think we should expect intelligent systems to develop a personality of their own, so it becomes important to be able to argue with them… How about supplementing them with a soft silicon butt ready to be kicked when opportune ?


4. Fred - September 16, 2007

I’m with you concerning the personality feature. The current GPS devices for vehicles have a variety of voices available if audio assistance is desired. This past week, on a drive to Frisco and back, a friend brought along such an aide with projecting a voice called Mandy who had a slight British accent. Her pleasant voice kept popping up at various times to very accurately keep us on track. Throwing her a few lines each time was great fun but she disregarded our comments and performed like a trooper focusing on the points of interest programmed. This was fine for freeway driving but when we were in downtown S.F. she might as well have been a wife or girlfriend giving directions but a much cheaper dinner date. p.s. It’s very difficult to find a bad cup of coffee in North Beach. On the last day of the trip, la signora running Caffe Puccini reminded me of a fine summer morning in Italia for a few brief moments. We had left Mandy in the car and she wouldn’t speak to us again for 20 minutes until we crossed the Bay Bridge driving out of town. Her silence spoke volumes.

5. dorigo - September 16, 2007

Lol, imagine Mandy talking too much, you kick her butt, the sensors catch it and she moans and says “Ouch – sorry, I apologize… I guess I’ll just shut up for a while”. That is close to my ideal car.

Oh, and – anybody against computer-mobbing here ? Or am I a sexist because I imagine a female robot getting kicked ? It’s Fred’s fault, he chose a female driver.


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7. Terry Bolton - December 1, 2007

about the comment that suggested that robots will generate a personality and we have to make a silicon butt .

really i dont see that comming soon specially in cars systems because its mostly designed to learn from its sensors and actuators not from you when you curse the driver of the next car.

i can see that these systems will offer agreat dealof car stability and accidents prevention which will be great for a family man like me .

but certain features like taking control and overriding user orders will take alot of the fun.

by other words cars which are designed to run at extremly high speeds will not be happy with a speed limit system (some people pay alot of money for a ferrari just to reach the 300Km/h)

but i think that this system is a great step in the direction of safe roads and somone should force using it in all cars


8. dorigo - December 1, 2007

Hi Terry,

it’s too unfortunate that we have to care what ferrari owners want. Nobody should be allowed to drive at 200km/h, let alone 300. There are racetracks for that…
It is like banning smoke: doing it everywhere is a limitation of people’s freedom, while leaving it allowed in a small spot (such as those usually found in airports) is both right and educational.

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