System can 'see' wrong-way signs
(From the Jan-Feb 2013 print edition of Fleet Management)
Mercedes-Benz has developed an assistance system aimed to eliminate the threat of drivers entering one-way streets and on-ramps. The new traffic sign assistance system is able to recognize no-entry signs and issues an acoustic and visual warning to the driver if he or she should drive the wrong way. The new system will be available for the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, due to be launched this year, and on the revamped E-Class.
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 is actually much higher. In Germany alone, the number is estimated at about seven incidents per day of drivers entering highways going the wrong way. In most cases wrong-way driving ends without tragedy, but the threat of wrong-way drivers still accompanies drivers every day.
The system relies on a camera on the inside of the windscreen. It can visually identify no-entry signs and send the information obtained to the computer in the on-board electronics. If it detects that the vehicle is about to pass the relevant prohibitory signs and is entering an on-ramp, the system warns the driver. Three loud beeps are issued and a red no-entry symbol lights up in the display in order to make the driver aware of the danger.
In order to further improve the reliability of the system, 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-overtaking signs as well as the signs indicating the end of these particular restrictions.
If poor visibility limits the system’s optics too much—during heavy snow, for example—the system reports to the driver that it is “temporarily unavailable”. 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.