AutoVue is already being offered as a factory-installed option on Freightliner's Century and Argosy trucks. Automakers offering a Lane Departure Warning System on some of their models include Audi, Infiniti, BMW, Cadillac, Volvo and Buick.
At a recent event, Iteris provided several cars equipped with the AutoVue system for test-drives. When the driver got within about a foot of the left- or right-lane marking, a buzzer sounded. Memole explained that several warnings could be programmed into the system. As a joke, a company technician used Homer Simpson's voice with his trademark exclamation: "D'oh!" A vibrating device under the driver seat can also be used. The system does not sound an alarm at speeds under 37 mph, because it was first developed for European cars — 37 mph converts to 60 kilometers per hour, an even number selected as the cut-off point.
Bill Patriolia, director of North American Truck Sales, said he has collected statistics and information about truck accidents. The rumble strip, a physical counterpart to the AutoVue system, has been incredibly effective in preventing fatal accidents on high-risk sections of rural highways. The AutoVue system works on a similar principle, serving as a constant reminder to truck drivers to stay in their lanes.
One trucking company Patriolia spoke with, which had a fleet of 300 trucks, suffered five serious accidents in one year. Three of those five accidents were due to unintentional lane departures and could have been averted using AutoVue.
The same technology that drives the LDW system could be used for several related applications. One use would be to sense an approaching tunnel and turn on the headlights before the driver finds himself in darkness. Another use would be to detect rain on the windshield and turn on the wipers and control their speed. A blind spot warning system has already been developed by Iteris that monitors the lanes adjacent to the vehicle. If the driver signals his intention to change lanes, and a car is in the blind spot, an audible warning is generated. A version of this blind spot detection technology is now available on certain models from Audi, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Dodge, Jaguar, GMC, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Volvo, Cadillac, and Buick. According to a 2008 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, blind spot warning/detection systems have the potential to prevent up to 457,000 crashes annually.
After a short time driving in a car with the AutoVue system, it was easy to forget the device was even there. However, as soon as the driver makes a lane change without first signaling, the buzzer comes alive. This shows that even if you forget it's there, it doesn't forget to do its job. It's always watching the road, even when you aren't.
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