Head-on collisions are often among the most deadly highway accidents, and some of the most tragic involve vehicles that inadvertently get on a freeway or one-way street heading the wrong direction.
But a new system developed by Daimler AG could alert drivers who’re heading the wrong way. The technology is planned to debut on the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and E-Class models later this year.
“’There’s a vehicle driving the wrong way on the A1, the A2, the A5, the A46…’ – over the last three months, this type of report has been worrying Germany almost weekly,” observed Thomas Weber, member of the Daimler board of management responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
During this short period, he noted, “more than 25 people died through no fault of their own because they collided with a vehicle travelling the wrong way on motorways or dual carriageways” in Germany alone. And the situation has been repeated in the U.S., Britain, China and just about everywhere else.
Weber noted, as a rule, wrong-way drivers are only mentioned by the media when their actions end with victims who are either badly or fatally injured. The number of wrong-way drivers, known in German as “phantom drivers” is actually much higher. The German Federal Department of Transport estimates that about 1,700 radio warnings about phantom vehicles on German roads are issued annually.
In order to prevent anyone becoming a wrong-way driver – whether by mistake, due to inattentiveness, stress resulting from heavy traffic or complicated road designs – Mercedes‑Benz has developed a new traffic sign assistance system which will provide both an audible and visual alert for the driver.
The technical core of the system is a camera on the inside of the windscreen. It can visually identify no-entry signs and alert a vehicle’s onboard electronics system. If it detects that the vehicle is about to pass the relevant prohibitory signs and enter a road going the wrong way, the system warns the driver.
Three loud beeps are issued and a red no-entry symbol lights up in the instrument panel in order to make the driver aware of the danger.
To make the system more reliable, the electronics compare the data from the camera with data from the navigation system. The other functions of the new Mercedes-Benz traffic sign assistance system also profit from this feature, which also includes the detection and display of speed limits and no-passing signs as well as the signs indicating the end of these particular restrictions.
If poor visibility limits the system’s optics – during heavy snow flurries, for example – the system reports to the driver that it is “temporarily unavailable.”
Weber said initially the system will be designed primarily for use in Germany. Mercedes‑Benz is however working on adapting the system for use in other countries.
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