We wrote last week that while collision avoidance systems have had a beneficial effect on accident statistics in the US, collision avoidance systems appear to have had the opposote effect.

We wrote last week that while collision avoidance systems have had a beneficial effect on accident statistics in the US, collision avoidance systems appear to have had the opposote effect.

New technology being researched by MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering in the US, however, combines these two approaches for even safer driving.

The system works a little like an aircraft autopilot in reverse. Commercial aircraft auto-pilot systems take control of flight under normal conditions and only hand control back to the pilot when a situation becomes too complex to handle — the presumption being that a human knows how to best handle extreme conditions.

MIT’s system, on the other hand, assumes the driver wants to control the vehicle under normal driving conditions and will only step in when it looks like they’re about to lose control — to avoid a collision, in other words.

The system uses an onboard camera and a laser rangefinder to identify hazards in a vehicle’s immediate environment and plot a ‘safe zone’. The system then acts as an intelligent ‘co-pilot’ and only takes an interest when it thinks the drive is about to leave the safe zone.

Movie

The system is being developed by Sterling Anderson, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Karl Iagnemma, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group.

The difference with this system is that, unlike Google’s self-driving cars, it leaves the driver in full control of the vehicle. Nor does it attempt to detect road markings in order to determine when a vehicle is being driven safely.

Explaining this different approach, Anderson said: “When you and I drive, [we don’t] choose just one path and obsessively follow it. Typically you and I see a lane or a parking lot, and we say, ‘Here is the field of safe travel, here’s the entire region of the roadway I can use, and I’m not going to worry about remaining on a specific line, as long as I’m safely on the roadway and I avoid collisions.’”

More than 1,200 trials of the system have so far resulted in few collisions and most were the result of glitches with the vehicle’s camera failing to identify an obstacle.

This system also has the added advantage of being much simpler to implement than similar self-driving technologies being developed by car manufacturers.

“You could stick your cellphone on the dashboard, and it would use [its onboard sensors] to provide the feedback needed by the system,” Anderson said. “I think we’ll find better ways of doing it that will be simpler, cheaper and allow more users access to the technology.”

[MIT]

Share with friends

Follow us on

Most recent motorhome reviews

The Practical Motorhome Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo 250d Sport Long review – 1 - The Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo 250d Sport Long is priced from £56,670 OTR, £63,990 as tested (© Phil Russell/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Chausson Welcome 711 Travel Line review – 1 - The new Chausson 711 is being sold in Welcome Travel Line spec only (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)

Swift Rio 325

£52,180OTR

The Practical Motorhome Swift Rio 325 review – 1 - The 2018 Swift Rio 325 is just 5.99m long and has a licence-friendly MTPLM of 3500kg (© Phil Russell/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome IH N-Class 630 RLS review – 1 - The IH N-Class 630 RLS is priced from £73,995 OTR for the 130bhp variant and from £76,490 OTR for the 180bhp version – we're testing the latter (© Gentleman Jack/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Marquis Majestic 196 review – 1 - Fitting six berths and six travel seats into a 3500kg motorhome is no mean feat – does it work? (© Phil Russell/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Swift Bessacarr 597 review – 1 - The ’van tested has an MTPLM of 3850kg, but there is a version with a 3500kg MTPLM (and a lower payload) – read more in our Swift Bessacarr 597 review (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)