13 Oct 2011   |   News

€71M large-scale test of intelligent cars starts in Frankfurt

A fleet of 120 vehicles is taking to the roads to test a range of new wireless safety features

Intelligent cars that can alert their drivers - and each other - to hazards, are being tested in live situations as part of the Safe and Intelligent Mobility – Test Field Germany (simTD) research project, which is getting under way in Frankfurt.

The 120 vehicles in the test can wirelessly communicate with each other and with sensors in the road infrastructure. The project will study how drivers adapt, and the impact the technology has in practice on highways, rural and urban roads in and to the north of Frankfurt am Main over several months.

"Over the past few years a multitude of [wireless] technologies have been developed. The common standard should now allow us to investigate how drivers adopt this technology in everyday scenarios and to what extent we can improve road safety, prevent congestion and reduce CO2 emissions," said Fritz Busch, Chair for Traffic Engineering and Control at the Technical University of Munich.

The simTD–System is using wireless technology specifically developed for this application, based on the WLAN standard. Information can either be transferred directly to other vehicles or to roadside stations installed along the road.

The vehicles transmit information on the traffic conditions to the control station, which can then predict and manage traffic developments. A display provides drivers with recommendations on the best route to take. The system also assists drivers at intersections or traffic lights by providing a display of the right lane to take for the next turn, or the optimum speed to drive to get a "wave of green traffic lights”.

The system also alerts drivers to imminent hazards. An emergency brake light in the display, for instance, warns if a vehicle ahead brakes heavily – well before the driver is physically able to react to the situation. Where rescue services are responding to an incident, the system shows the direction and the lane, emergency vehicles are travelling in, enabling drivers to avoid hampering their progress. If obstacles, such as shed loads, are blocking the road, drivers receive timely advice on alternative routes.

Scientists from the TU München are managing the field test and analysing the huge amounts of data produced. Together with researchers from the University of Würzburg, they are also running the simTD simulation laboratory, where the traffic engineers are simulating what impact the introduction of the technology would have on all traffic in the test area, if a certain proportion of cars were fitted with this technology.

The  €71 million project is backed by a number of public and private funders, with the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development providing funding for simTD,  to support the development of a common standard. "With the simTD-system, we are [testing] a trend-setting technology that will allow vehicles from leading German manufacturers to network with one another and with the traffic infrastructure," said project coordinator Christian Weiss.

The simTD is also supported by German car makers including BMW, Volkswagen and Audi, automotive suppliers, communication companies and research institutes.

More information: www.simTD.de

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