When the car can look round corners and automatically summon aid

Sep 8, 2008

What if our cars knew that a vehicle had broken down just over the next blind summit or that black ice lay in wait in the next hollow? With Car-to-Car and Car-to-Infrastructure communication, drivers can be warned of such dangers long before they suspect it themselves. The Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP®) is an accelerator pedal, which physically tells the driver to take his foot off the accelerator, either because he will soon need to brake or so that his vehicle can save on gasoline. Head-up displays provide information without the driver having to take his eyes off the road; and, if a serious accident should still occur, Emergency Call (eCall) will automatically alert the rescue services. 

Berlin/Frankfurt am Main, Germany. A broken down vehicle hidden behind a bend, or a few meters of slippery road - it's often minor things which cause serious accidents. In cases like these, even the most careful drivers have no chance of avoiding an accident.

The (AFFP®) is an accelerator pedal, which physically tells the driver to take his foot off the accelerator, either because he will soon need to brake or so that his vehicle can save on gasoline. Car-to-Car communication, now being introduced by Continental, the international automotive supplier, offers drivers this "view round the corner", thus providing them with a little more safety. A GPS module of the type used for navigation, a microprocessor and the automotive variant of wireless local area network (WLAN) ensure that a hazard warning including a precise location is transmitted to all vehicles equipped with the same technology within a radius of up to 500 meters. The warning signal is initiated either by switching on the hazard warning flasher system or automatically, if for example the car's Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has realized that the road surface is as smooth as a mirror – or, again, if the airbag is triggered in the event of an accident. It is also possible for two vehicles to warn each other; for example, if one of them is in the other's blind spot when overtaking or if both cars are approaching the same intersection at high speed. And if a driver has to make an emergency stop and the anti-lock braking system (ABS) is active, the car behind can be given an early warning. As well as using the traditional siren, rescue services like the police and the fire service can also use wireless technology to demand the right of way. In-car displays can then give drivers early warning that the rescue ambulance is approaching from the left, for example, so that they can react to the situation in good time.

Information of this type can be transmitted, not only from car to car, but also to the nearest traffic management center by sensors installed along the roads in traffic lights or traffic management signs. This is referred to as car-to-infrastructure communication. In this way, the central computer is rapidly alerted to an accident or a traffic jam, allowing drivers over a wide area to be informed and diverted onto alternative routes. This avoids long traffic jams and increases traffic flow, preventing unnecessary fuel consu.mption and the associated pollutant and CO2 emissions.

eCall: automatic emergency call following a serious accident

The future envisaged for driving is "Vision Zero". Vision Zero describes circumstances in which road users are so well protected that no more deaths or serious injuries occur. Intelligent vehicles can help prevent accidents and therefore reduce the number of injuries to passengers and other road users. Every minute counts when it comes to helping people with injuries. The automatic electronic emergency call, eCall, helps to speed up the rescue chain. If an airbag is triggered, the telematics unit automatically transmits an emergency mobile radio call to a rescue headquarters with the most important data, such as location, time and severity of the crash. At the same time, voice communication is established between the car involved in the accident and the rescue headquarters.

AFFP®: the accelerator pedal which communicates with the driver

The most important question in every interaction between driver and vehicle is how to warn the driver in hazard situations so as to be certain that he is fully aware of the information. The basic problem with optical or acoustic signals is that the driver's attention might be elsewhere and as a result he fails to note the warning. The Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP®) relies on warning the driver directly but discreetly through sensory stimulation; the hazard warning is felt directly by the driver's foot, making him intuitively aware of the situation and able to comprehend the potential danger.

By integrating AFFP® into future vehicle systems, the active accelerator pedal can make a valuable contribution to vehicle safety in a variety of dangerous situations. The AFFP® will respond whenever breakdowns or accidents are reported electronically by Car-to-Car or Car-to-Infrastructure communication and similarly if the sensors in the vehicle register that the driver is clearly struggling not to fall asleep. Even in heavy traffic, the Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal helps drivers to maintain optimum vehicle spacing and to drive at an ideal even speed. The system uses information from the radar sensors in the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) system, identifies the correct speed for staying with the flow of the traffic. The result is that the vehicle keeps to an even engine speed; excessive use of the brake and accelerator is avoided.

Rear-end collisions are some of the most frequent types of accident. In Europe, they represent 44 percent of all accidents; in Japan, the figure is as high as 57 percent. The cause is almost always human error; drivers are to blame in 85 percent of accidents because they are too close to the vehicle in front or not paying attention. The Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal offers the opportunity of intervening to achieve the globally stated aim of halving the number of accidents.

Head-up display: providing information without distracting attention from the road

Continental's Head-up display allows drivers to concentrate on the traffic ahead, without missing the information on the dashboard instruments. The Head-up display presents drivers with important vehicle data such as speed, navigation information and warning messages directly in their field of vision. This means they can concentrate fully on the traffic and still be constantly aware of their current driving speed without taking their eyes off the road. It also means greater safety because it takes about one second on average to read the navigation information on the instrument displays which are currently fitted as standard during which time, at 50 km/h, the vehicle will already have covered 14 meters.

Press Release (MS-Word, 60 KB)

Press Image to the issue Car-to-Infrastructure communication in the Continental Media Center. More Images: Image2 , Image3 , Image4


Nicole Geissler

External Communications


Division Chassis & Safety

Guerickestraße 7

60488 Frankfurt am Main

Phone:+49 69 7603-8492

Fax:+49 69 7603-3945

E-Mail: nicole.geissler@continental-corporation.com