German auto supplier Bosch has come up with a software package that aims to prevent wrong-way car accidents by comparing the direction a car is going in with a Web-based database of roads, as Phillip E. Ross writes for IEEE Spectrum. The system then quickly alerts the driver and even stops the car, giving oncoming vehicles time to move out of the way, Ross writes.
The technology also notifies oncoming cars, via a cloud-based “anonymized” system, Ross writes. It is able to activate road signs, and if there are none, it can send an alert to drivers via their smartphones or on-board infotainment systems, Ross writes.
That’s critical because in many cases the driver who’s going the wrong way may be unresponsive to any warning. Studies have shown that such drivers are often impaired by disease, old age, or alcohol. Worst of all are the ones who go the wrong way on purpose.
According to Christian Jeschke, an engineer at Bosch, some 50 percent of all wrong-way drivers are suicidal.
About 350 people are killed each year in the United States as a result of accidents caused by drivers going in the wrong direction on the highway, according to Wikipedia. Although such accidents comprise only 3% of crashes on divided highways in the U.S., they are 12 to 27% as likely as other accidents to result in death, Ross writes. It is a serious problem because of the high speeds usually involved and the likelihood of head-on collisions, Wikipedia writes.
Rollin Bishop writes for Road and Track that Bosch’s cloud-based system is more effective than a radio-based one, at least in Germany. That is because radio alerts in Germany about wrong-way drivers can take several minutes to get sent, “by which time the danger’s already come and gone for most folks.” Bosch says that one-third of serious accidents caused by wrong-way drivers happen within approximately the first 1,650 feet, which means the accident has taken place before the radio-based warning has arrived, Bishop writes. Bosch’s system provides a warning within about 10 seconds, Bosch writes in a press release.
How It Works
The cloud-based system Bosch uses continuously compares a vehicle’s movements to what it understands to be the correct direction on any road, Bishop writes. He says it is similar to any GPS software, but with an emphasis on the direction the car is moving in.
A report published in 2014 by the U.S. Institute of Transportation Engineers found an average of 269 fatal wrong-way crashes annually in the U.S. from 2004 through 2011, resulting in an average 359 deaths annually, Wikipedia reports. The study found that Texas, California, and Florida had the highest number of such crashes, and make up almost one-third of the national totals.
Bosch writes that the wrong-way alert system can be integrated inexpensively into existing infotainment systems or apps. The company plans to start production as early as 2016, it writes. “We’re aiming to achieve quick market acceptance so that the system can realize its life-saving potential to the full as soon as possible,” said Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, member of the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH.