Integrated systems needed to prevent driver overload

A pan-European research project has concluded that many road accidents can be avoided if electronic support systems in vehicles are co-ordinated and better tailored to suit the flow of traffic and the driver's situation.

The AIDE project, which was co-ordinated by Volvo, sought to understand how drivers of commercial vehicles deal with competing inputs from safety and information systems.

Last week the project submitted its final report, when nearly 200 researchers from throughout Europe, motoring industry experts and EU representatives were on hand to hear the results of four years' research.

"We know that the human factor is a contributory cause in at least 90 per cent of all traffic accidents. If we can provide technology that adapts support systems to suit the individual driver and the current traffic situation, many accidents would be able to be avoided," says Lars-Göran Löwenadler, safety director at Volvo Trucks.

"It is positive that the number of safety and information systems in modern vehicles is increasing. Taken individually, they offer many benefits as regards traffic safety and productivity. However, bearing in mind that many drivers have mobile phones and perhaps also a GPS satellite navigator in the vehicle, today's driver does risk being over-burdened by too much information. In order to improve traffic safety, we have developed solutions that allow all the systems to interact smoothly," explains Volvo Technology's AIDE co-ordinator, Gustav Markkula.

In concrete terms, AIDE is all about creating a user interface between the vehicle's technology and the driver. The challenge is to integrate all the support systems into the driver's environment so that they help the driver in the best possible way at exactly the right time and do not risk disrupting him in situations where the traffic demands all his attention.

Smart, integrated communication solutions, user-friendly instrument panels, co-ordination of safety functions and better understanding of how driver behaviour is affected by acoustic and visual signals are some of the results of the research. One of the outcomes of the research is Volvo Trucks' prototype Integrated Safety Truck, a positive example of the potential available with integrated safety solutions.

"The results indicated the direction of tomorrow's product development. Some of the ideas we can already see in our forthcoming truck models," reveals Lars-Göran Löwenadler.

About thirty companies co-operated in the project, which was partly financed by EU funds.

Image: The AIDE project is researching technology to reduce stress

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