Mar 122011
 
Karl Benz's "Velo" model (1894) - en...
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Posh cars already learn how you like your seat and steering wheel adjusted.

The next generation of cars may be smart enough to learn how you drive and warn you when you’re not driving safely.

Drivers go to school to learn to anticipate emerging situations and respond appropriately. Why shouldn’t cars do the same? That’s the question Florentin Wörgötter and his colleagues at the EU-fundedresearch programme DRIVSCO asked themselves three years ago.

Their answer was that, with state-of-the-art sensors, image processors, and learning algorithms, a car that smart could be built.

The result, now tested in a prototype vehicle, is a system that tracks a driver’s every move, matches those actions with what it “sees” down the road, and learns how that driver normally handles situations such as upcoming curves or other vehicles ahead.

With its infrared headlights, stereo cameras, and advanced visual processing the system can actually see better at night than a human driver. It has proved its worth by providing early warnings of hazards a human driver had not yet seen or reacted to.

“What we wanted was a system that learns to drive during the day by correlating what it sees with the actions a driver takes,” says Wörgötter. “Then at night the system could say, ‘Slow down, a curve is coming up!’ — a curve the human didn’t see. Now we have a prototype that does this.”

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