The roads southwest of Tokyo could soon be a little safer. Nissan Motor will begin trials in October of a new system that alerts drivers to potential dangers on the road ahead by tying together data from the car with a network of roadside sensors and transmitters.
The system runs as an upgrade of the software in Nissan’s SkyWings satellite navigation system, already fitted into thousands of the company’s cars in Japan. It requires a receiver on the dashboard to pick up signals from roadside transmitters. It works by analyzing data from the roadside beacons and from the car to produce warnings when dangerous situations may exist.
For example, a transmitter ahead of a traffic signal relays the signal’s current state—red, yellow or green—to the car. The onboard computer matches this with the driver’s behavior and can provide an audible and visual warning if the car isn’t decelerating but the signal ahead is red. The same can be done ahead of stop signs, and in school zones the computer might warn if the car is traveling too fast.
The trials will also involve the detection of vehicles at intersections, particularly those where visibility is difficult because of buildings or other obstacles. A driver waiting to join a main road might be alerted if a fast-moving car is approaching while a driver on the major road might be alerted to slow down if a vehicle is starting to pull out onto the road.
Both systems worked flawlessly when demonstrated by Nissan to reporters earlier this week. The company will soon begin seeking 10,000 of its customers living in Kanagawa prefecture for the test, which will run until March 2009.
In addition to the safety aspects, the company will be testing a service that aims to reduce congestion. Modern car navigation systems already provide information on traffic conditions through the VICS system, which provides information on traffic speed from sensors mounted above roads. But VICS covers only about 10 percent of the roads inside the navigation system’s database. For the other routes, the system is blind.
Nissan will seek to supplement this data by having each car in the trial report back on the route it is taking and its average speed. The data will be transmitted from the car to a server via a cell phone every few minutes and will increase the traffic congestion system’s visibility to about half of the roads in the navigation database. A system run by NTT DoCoMo will also collect similar data from taxis, and this will be combined with the Nissan data and that from the existing VICS system to provide a much more detailed picture of road conditions, the company hopes.
The driving force behind the research is Nissan’s goal of reducing fatalities and serious injury involving Nissan vehicles by half from 1995 to 2015. There were 15.3 such deaths or injuries per 10,000 Nissan vehicles in 1995, according to data from the Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis presented by Nissan.
-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)
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