Honda has announced plans to test in live traffic a driver-assist system designed to warn drivers of upcoming traffic signals and do something about them even if the driver isn't prepared to.
The version of its driver-assist system Honda is testing uses onboard GPS systems and infrared sensors that recognize landmark IR beacons along the road to give the car's navigation system an accurate estimate of where it is and the status of a traffic signal it may be approaching.
When the car is approaching a green light, an indicator on the dash will light up with an indication of the speed the driver should maintain to make it safely through the green, or a safe speed at which to pass other cars in the intersection. When there's no chance to make it, the car will warn the driver to slow down gradually, then provide a countdown that tells the driver when the light will turn green, according to Honda.
The system is an early version of a system using Car2Car Communications networks to get information from both traffic signals and from other cars in the immediate area.
The traffic-signal warning is part of the Intelligent Transport System that is one part of Japan's larger Universal Traffic Management System (UTMS) that is being developed and installed in pieces by government agencies, which encourage carmakers to implement and test components in passenger vehicles.
Car2Car is an EU-sponsored networking protocol and traffic-management-system project already adopted in principal by Japan. The US Department of Transportation is pushing for adoption of its vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V) technology, which the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced Feb. 3 it was planning to require for cars in the US.
The Honda test is still a limited subset of the ultimate function-set of UTMS, which is a long-term development effort whose goal is not only to improve traffic safety, but also to cut down on pollution and congestion. It is designed to make traffic more efficient by enabling cars to pass around information that lets them all travel more efficiently, rather than having some rush toward red lights while others dawdle as they approach a green.
Honda will test its IR-based onboard version of the system using about 100 cars on the streets of Utsunomiya City in Japan -- a test that will provide data on both how well Honda's onboard assist system works and how well drivers use feedback to keep moving more consistently.
Later versions of the traffic-signal-sensing functions will also have some limited control of the brake to let the car slow on its own in response to a red light the driver may or may not anticipate.
Honda has not confirmed what portions of either the current or future functions will ultimately show up in its cars.
— Kevin Fogarty is a freelance writer for EE Times