Project brings environment-aware vehicles, talking traffic lights

May 14, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
If traffic lights could speak, which language would the use to make sure that vehicles could understand them? An industry consortium of 31 companies, with automotive supplier Continental and aerospace research centre Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) among them is currently trying to find a solution. The project UR:BAN, designed to develop solutions for safe and efficient urban traffic, provided first insights into demonstration vehicles, simulators, and demo objects at the opportunity of the project's half-time event.

The goal of the project is developing solutions that provide context-sensitive, predictive and individual support to drivers of passenger cars and commercial vehicles in city traffic. Within this context, DLR is working on a specific aspect of car2x communications. The goal is to devise an instruction format that enables traffic lights to communicate with the cars regardless of make, type or manufacturer. For instance, future traffic lights can pass on information to the cars in the environment; the information is generates in a 'smart guiding pylone' which can be placed by the police in the case of an accident or a construction site. This smart guiding pylone connects wirelessly to the traffic light to inform them about the traffic obstruction. The traffic light in turn sends the message to the vehicles in the vicinity, alerting them about the situation and thus contributing to prevent accidents and, if applicable, recommend a deviation.

Another data type contains the remaining time of the red or green phase. Drivers can use this information, to reduce or increase their speed accordingly - in future systems, this adjustment can be done automatically.

In complex urban traffic situations, it can be particularly challenging to recognise hazards and react accordingly. The UR:BAN project for this reason covers the aspect of 'cognitive assistance'. In this segment, Continental and others develop powerful driver assistance systems capable of taking control over lateral and longitudinal movements of the cars. This subproject contains four functions - driver assistance systems for narrow passages, for passages with contraflow, lane change assist, and situation-aware speed recommendation with haptic feedback. The contraflow traffic assistance system, for instance, determines if the lane ahead of the vehicle is wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass. If the sensors determine that the space is not sufficient it issues a warning sound at the dashboard.