Eberhard Hipp, Head of Research at MAN Truck & Bus,is coordinating the research project: "The traffic situationin cities is getting more complex all the time. Road usersare driving in very dense traffic conditions, which makes reaction times short. Our aims in thisproject are to analyse traffic movement using innovative systems and new technologies, anddetermine driving strategies to optimise fuel consumption, identify dangerous situations andprotect drivers from possible human error."
"In doing so, we hope to make a significant contribution towards increasing efficiency andsafety on the roads. All our research is centred around the driver," explains Hipp.
The Human Factors in Traffic sub-project involves MAN researchers exploring how vehiclescan most efficiently provide information from assistance systems to the driver in busy urbantraffic and how the cockpit can be designed so as to display exactly the right information tothe driver in any given traffic situation.In urban driving, communication between vehicle and driver is extremely important: traffic isdense and so drivers have to maintain high levels of concentration in order to react tosituations which change much more rapidly than in out-of-town driving. Cars and commercialvehicles already have numerous electronic assistance systems to support drivers.
Thebenefit to drivers and other road users is that assistance systems are always alert – theynever get tired, so they can always warn the driver and intervene in an instant should thesituation arise. While the abundance of systems is set to expand still further, it is stillimportant that drivers do not get overwhelmed with displays and warnings from assistancesystems. Consequently, one of the key research topics at MAN is the interface betweendriver and vehicle (human-machine interface).
The aim of the MAN researchers is to keep distractions to the driver to a minimum.Information must be reduced to the minimum required and then conveyed to the driver in anintuitive manner.In the first stage of the project, MAN has been working with professional drivers using adriving simulator. The researchers have been determining the information needed by driversin the unfamiliar situation in which their truck automatically sets its own speed in the city.
Karlheinz Dörner, Head of Research into Driver Assistance and Electronic Systems: "Thisgives us a realistic picture of the information HGV and bus drivers need and expect in orderto be able to drive safely and understand vehicle systems. For example, we can learn how togive drivers information from a Green Wave assistant in a way that they can make best useof it."Then we can apply that in designing specific aspects of the human-machine interface. Thisincludes both the hardware, in other words controls, displays, audible and sensory warnings,and the software, for example when information is displayed and in what level of detail. Theresult should provide the driver with a relaxed, efficient and safe driving experience in urbantraffic", Dörner sums up.
This sub-project ties in with the other areas MAN is exploring within the UR:BAN project: theGreen Wave assistant and all-round visibility. The driver-vehicle interface is a very importantpart of these projects, too, and is being given particular attention. In the second phase of theproject, researchers will present a prototype cockpit showing off the results of their work.
In the Networked Traffic System sub-project, MAN is developing a Green Wave assistant.The aim is to optimise the use of the green traffic light phases on main inner-urban routes inorder to save on fuel and time.
Anticipatory driving saves on fuel – this is especially true in the case of trucks and buses, asit takes a large amount of energy to get a 40-tonne vehicle from a standstill up to a speed of50 km/h. Frequent stopping and starting in inner-city streets diminishes the high efficiency ofmodern commercial vehicles.
This is something the MAN developers want to change. "You can save a lot of fuel by gettingthe vehicle to move at exactly the right speed so as to make it unnecessary to keep stoppingand pulling away," says Walter Schwertberger, Group Head of Research into DriverAssistance Systems at MAN. "This is the idea behind the Green Wave assistant. The trafficlight system wirelessly transmits its switching intervals to the vehicle via a server. The vehiclethen takes this data and comes up with a suitable strategy to enter the green light phase forthe planned route. In other words, the vehicle automatically chooses its own most appropriatespeed."
For this to happen, the necessary communication infrastructure first needs to be set up:servers need to be able to transmit information from the city's traffic light managementsystem. The UR:BAN project is working with two model cities: Düsseldorf and Kassel.
In the Cognitive Assistance sub-project, MAN is working to advance the development of anall-round visibility system to meet the complex requirements of buses and trucks in urbantraffic.
Bus drivers in urban areas face special challenges as they negotiate narrow inner-citystreets. These include letting passengers on and off safely at bus stops, handling roadjunctions with pedestrians and cyclists, streets with bottlenecks, oncoming traffic and lanechanges.
"The camera system is designed to give the driver an easily comprehensible overview of thesituation around the vehicle," says project manager Walter Schwertberger. Researchers areworking to optimise a bird's eye view display of the vehicle environment especially forcommercial vehicles. The focus here is also on conveying information to the driver in a waythat matches the needs of the traffic situation. The system automatically selects anappropriate camera view for the given driving situation – for example, the front right corner ofthe bus when pulling into a bus stop (for left-hand drive vehicles).
The project is engaged in essential groundwork to meet the needs of commercial vehicles,with complex technical hurdles to be overcome, such as how to combine images from anumber of cameras into a single display which the driver can then easily take in at a glance,and also how to correctly display changing angles in articulated buses. The research projectis not concentrating on creating warnings for specific hazards, rather the objective is todevelop a system that gives drivers the best overview in complex driving situations, e.g.reversing.
UR:BAN is a joint initiative involving 31 companies, universities, research institutes and cities.They are working together to develop driver assistance and traffic management systems toenhance mobility in urban areas. The objective: safe and efficient urban traffic – which flowsfreely. The overall budget allocated to the project is €80m, with the German Federal Ministryfor Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) providing 50 per cent of the funding. Cities are thefocal point of EU traffic policy, as 70 per cent of Europeans are city-dwellers. UR:BAN will rununtil 2016.
More photo: UR:BAN project
Link: UR:BAN project