Numerous automotive technologies help prevent crashes, from stability control and lane-keep assist to blind-spot monitoring and automatic braking. But none of these features can prevent you from driving off the road, which is an incredibly dangerous situation.
Continental’s Anti Road-Departure System
Crashes like these might represent a small number of overall accidents but they’re extremely deadly. “Almost 40 percent of all (automotive) fatalities in the U.S. happen from departing the roadway,” said Jeremy McClain, head of chassis and safety systems at Continental.
Obviously there’s a lot that can go wrong when your car or truck leaves its lane. You could hit the guardrail, plow into a tree or even end up underwater, plus there’s a large risk of rolling the vehicle.
To prevent these deadly incidents Continental has developed a Road Departure Protection system. “If you somehow fail to stay in the lane it keeps you on the road,” explained McClain, which is exactly where you want to be.
This technology uses a forward-facing mono camera that can be mounted behind a vehicle’s rear-view mirror. This sensor reads the road’s lines to help keep you on the pavement, but that’s not all.
The Road Departure Protection system also ties into numerous other vehicle sensors to gain as much data as possible. It connects with electronic stability control, wheel-speed monitors and a car or truck’s inertial measurement unit.
By combining all of this information the technology builds a probabilistic model that McClain said can “determine that you’re leaving the road and keep you on the road.” For instance the shadows cast by overhead trees might cause the optical camera to read a false positive, but with more information the system can still identify that you’re in a lane and shiny-side up.
Interestingly this system is capable of telling when you’re driving over rumble strips based on data provided by the vehicle’s wheel-speed sensors.
If it detects that you’re leaving the road this technology can get you back into the lane in one of two ways. It can tap into your car or truck’s electric power-steering system and directly turn the front wheels or it can apply differential braking to gently correct course.
However, drivers are ultimately the ones in control. If they intend to go off-roading they can always overpower the system if desired; it’s a safety feature, not adaptive cruise control.
Though he wouldn’t share any availability timetable McClain said, “It’s one of those things we want to get out there as soon as possible.” For Continental, Road Departure Protection is applicable to all light vehicles, though it might not work as well for heavy trucks as they lack the chassis sensors necessary to make everything function.
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