This press release is available in German.
Chaos at major intersections, confusing traffic lanes, pedestrians suddenly dodging the traffic: City drivers have to process a lot of information, make many split-second decisions and deal with constant distractions. Up to now though, driver assistance and traffic management technologies have mainly been designed for journeys on expressways and highways. But in a new project called UR:BAN ("Urban Space: User oriented assistance systems and network management") thirty German research institutes, companies and city authorities are developing systems for safe, efficient and stress-free city driving.
Assistance starts with advice on the best route to take. Unlike current navigational aids, the new technology will also take the vehicle's drivetrain into consideration, which means it will also be factoring in fuel consumption. Once the driver is underway, the assistance system is designed to keep vehicles on a "green run" through intersections. This is particularly important for trucks since they are slower to take off when the lights change. Traffic engineers from TUM are therefore working on more advanced traffic light switching sequences. When the driver approaches intersections, changes lanes or passes narrow sites, the assistance system will advise on the best course of action. If there is a risk of collision, the vehicle can automatically brake or swerve.
In practice though, how can these technologies be designed so that they actually help the driver, rather than add to the distractions? What advice is really important? And how should it be presented to the driver? "At first glance, many systems look easy to use. But that does not necessarily mean that drivers will be able to manage them in complex situations," says Prof. Klaus Bengler of the Institute of Ergonomics, who is heading up the UR:BAN project "The Human Element in Traffic". His research team is therefore exploring a variety of options, including acoustic and visual signals and pedal vibrations.
And that is not all they are focusing on. The researchers want to design "intelligent" vehicles capable of predicting driver behavior. Assistance systems could then help drivers anticipate problems and avoid collisions and other hazardous situations. "For example, if the system detects that the driver's speed is too high to respect an upcoming right of way, it can alert the driver in good time," explains Bengler.
The researchers have to analyze the behavior of all kinds of road users to develop these new technologies. They are pioneering a new system that combines simulators for automobiles, trucks and pedestrians. "Up to now, no-one has successfully combined three test subjects in one driving simulation," emphasizes Prof. Fritz Busch of the Chair of Traffic Engineering and Control. "Our hope is to gain a better understanding of how road users impact each other in various situations and how the new assistance systems will affect individual drivers and city traffic as a whole."
Representatives from the automotive, automotive supply, electronics, communication and software industries have teamed up with universities, research institutes and city authorities for the UR:BAN project. The thirty partners will bundle their research capabilities to develop new city-centric driver assistance and traffic management systems by the end of 2015. Special emphasis will be placed on the human element in traffic - whether in the role of driver, pedestrian, cyclist or traffic planner. Looking beyond increased safety in urban traffic, the UR:BAN project also aims to optimize driving efficiency and reduce emissions. It will achieve this by expanding intelligent infrastructures and networking them with intelligent vehicles. The research project has a total budget of 80 million euros. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) is providing around half of this as part of the Federal Government's third transport research program.
The project partners are: Adam Opel AG, AUDI AG, BMW Group, BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH, Robert Bosch GmbH, the Federal Highway Research Institute, Continental Automotive GmbH, Continental Safety Engineering International GmbH, Continental Teves AG & Co. oHG, Daimler AG, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V., Fraunhofer Institute for Work Organization IAO, GEVAS Software GmbH, the University of Applied Sciences of the Saarland, ifak Magdeburg e.V., MAN Truck & Bus AG, PTV AG, Institute of Automotive Engineering of RWTH Aachen, Düsseldorf city authorities, Kassel city authorities, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Technische Universität Chemnitz, Technische Universität München, TomTom Development Germany GmbH, TRANSVER GmbH, Universität der Bundeswehr München, the Universities of Duisburg-Essen, Kassel and Würzburg, and Volkswagen AG. Several universities, research institutes and small-to-mid-sized enterprises are also involved as subcontractors.
Prof. Klaus Bengler
Technische Universität München
Institute of Ergonomics
Phone: +49 89 289 15366
Prof. Fritz Busch
Technische Universität München
Chair of Traffic Engineering and Control
Phone: +49 89 289 22438