Europeans detail ITS research programs

  • 21-Jun-2010 11:01 EDT

French researchers are devising tests that will determine how ITS can help benefit the safety of motorcycle riders. (Triumph)

Building an integrated network that allows cars to communicate with each other and with infrastructure is a huge challenge. Communicating with roadside stations, improving motorcycle safety, and creating human/machine interfaces that reduce stress are just a few of the disparate technical issues that must be addressed.

These were among the many topics examined at the recent European conference on Human Centered Design for Intelligent Transport Systems, where specialists gathered in Berlin to share their latest ITS studies.

In France, the National Research Institute on Transport and Safety is examining the impact that ITS might have on powered two-wheeler safety. Two-wheeled vehicles account for a high percentage of road accidents, and many of them are fatal. Motorcycle and moped fatalities accounted for 19% of all highway fatalities in EU-19 member countries in 2006.

French researchers are setting the parameters of a study that will determine whether ITS applications can significantly improve road safety for powered two wheelers.

One aspect of this research will be to avoid negative consequences. That is especially important with motorcycles because riding is a sensitive perceptual and motor task. The European SAFERIDER project is beginning with tests that measure the potential of advanced rider assistance systems and on-bike information systems integration on motorcycles.

Researchers must first develop a dedicated tool for evaluating a rider’s mental workload, leveraging previous projects that yielded the driving activity load index as well as behavioral measures for secondary tasks. They are also defining methodologies for both real road and driving simulator experiments.

Another aspect of the ITS systems is providing good data, such as travel times, that drivers can rely on. ESIGELEC, a French engineering college, detailed a model that measures travel times using vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and global positioning system data. GPS and cellular phone positioning can replace existing techniques that use roadside detectors such as infrared detectors, surveillance cameras, or inductance loop detectors.

Once there are enough probe vehicles, vehicle-based systems are expected to provide precise traffic information. One of the key factors is proper placement of roadside receiving stations that record data each time transmitting vehicles enter their range. Overlap between coverage areas of these stations can lead to an inaccurate detection of vehicles so developers should use an effective range for each station instead of using their direct radio range.

Researchers also discussed techniques for reducing stress within the vehicle. As drivers get more input from vehicle systems and must often respond verbally or manually, there is interest in making these actions as safe as possible. At the Technische Universität Braunschweig’s Department of Engineering and Traffic Psychology, German researchers are studying the impact of delays in information systems, focusing on the effects of delays in menu interaction. The majority of subjects perceived the delays as annoying, indicating that they induce stress.

This study showed that variable delays in menu interaction can distract the driver more than consistent delays. Subjects performed lane changes better and faster when delays were consistent, which can be anticipated, so fewer glances away from the road are needed and stress is reduced.

Though this study used a very simple driving simulation, it suggests that if there are any system delays, designers should try to keep them consistent. In some instances, delays may have to be artificially prolonged.

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