More than 1.2 million accidents on European Union roads each year result in approximately 1.6 million injuries and 42,000 deaths. But recent studies estimate that the introduction of passive safety systems in cars could reduce these casualties by 120,000 annually. IST project CHAMELEON’s pre-crash demonstrator system with sensing and processing modules for obstacle detection and crash prediction might prove to be a future lifesaver on Europe’s highways.
Vehicles installed with a pre-crash sensorial system able to detect the impending danger in all scenarios are receiving growing support from governments, car makers and their future owners. Such a pre-crash system able to detect an imminent impact in advance with high reliability, together with quantitative crash data, offers the opportunity to improve on-board restraint systems such as seat belts, pre-tensioners and air-bags in terms of enhanced safety, effectiveness and reduced abruptness.
It does this by adapting the activation mode to the characteristics of the crash and even anticipating the action in specific cases, since precious extra time is made available. With such a system, new types of passive safety devices can also be conceived, and preventive, active and passive safety systems can be linked.
Alessandretti expects the pre-crash function to be developed in subsequent steps, which involve a progressive improvement in the capability of situation capture by the sensorial system. These are the pre-setting of airbags (i.e. tuning parameters of the control algorithm in advance for airbag activation), the activation of reversible restraints (particularly seat belt pre-tensioners, but also other new devices), the activation of irreversible restraints, and eventually the intervention on vehicle controls.
According to its project roadmap, CHAMELEON will contribute to the realisation of marketable products, in a time frame of around five years for the first categories of applications. Besides the pre-crash function, several CHAMELEON subsystems and tools will be available as enablers for a series of products - especially the sensor technologies, the software modules and the testing methods.
Different types of partners will therefore benefit from the project results. Sensor suppliers (ContiTemic, Saab Bofors, Thompson, Ibeo, IAI-Tamam) could develop improved devices, suitable for the pre-crash application, but also for other functions based on short-range detection. Already these firms have on going development programmes regarding these technologies, with a particular focus on overall automotive requirements.
The engineering company active in the project (EICAS) is now offering its ’Data fusion and crash prediction algorithm’, and will implement more advanced modelling and software tools, where pre-crash and active safety are coupled.
In their ongoing efforts to design and produce safer cars, the car manufacturers (Fiat, Porsche, PSA, Renault, Volvo Car) involved in the consortium will make use of project outcomes involving, in particular, the system definition, the sensor characteristics and the testing procedures.
"Sensor fusion still requires R&D work to improve the reliability of situation capture. Most of the programmes of car manufacturers now aim to evaluate the integration of different functions based on short-range obstacle detection, including pre-crash.," Alessandretti says. The work done in CHAMELEON has been an important step towards a better way to protect vehicle occupants, and also a very rewarding experience for all participants, considering the high human and social relevance of traffic safety on all our roads.
Tara Morris | alfa
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