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Objective

Virtual co-pilot to reduce road deaths

Vehicles that can foresee dangers and respond automatically to changing road conditions, traffic and driver mistakes could start rolling along Europe’s roads in the near future.

Though still prototypes, the vehicles developed by researchers working in the SPARC project sit on the cusp of a new generation of cars and trucks that promise to improve road safety dramatically.

Using a combination of sensors, automated decision-support systems and innovative control mechanisms, the smart vehicles help counteract the single biggest cause of traffic accidents: driver error.

Correcting human error

Mistakes by drivers – whether brought on by inattention, fatigue, drinking or simply carelessness – are estimated to cause 95% of the 40 000 fatal accidents that occur on Europe’s roads each year.

Preventing or correcting mistakes by drivers is therefore seen as the single most important way of reducing the number of accidents and meeting the EU’s target of cutting the number of road deaths by half over the coming years. The technology developed in the SPARC project would help achieve that once it makes its way onto the market.

Tested in cars and trucks

The SPARC system has so far been deployed in two prototype vehicles: a Mercedes-Benz Actros truck and a small Smart car built by project coordinator DaimlerChrysler.

Unlike most modern vehicles that use mechanical components to control the vehicle, both prototypes were designed with electromechanical systems.

Known as ‘x-by-wire’ or ‘drive-by-wire’, the electronic control system is similar to the technology used to fly aircraft with high precision by turning driver commands into electronic signals that are fed through an onboard computer.

X-by-wire not only gives drivers more control over their vehicles, they also allow automated systems to lend a helping hand.

Virtual co-pilot

A control system that can make decisions constitutes a kind of virtual co-pilot. Using information gathered from several sources – such as cameras, radar, GPS and a human-machine interface – the SPARC system can reliably monitor road conditions and driver behaviour.

It can predict upcoming hazards and respond to them if the driver does not. The system could, for example, slow the car down if the driver is approaching a sharp bend too fast, or pull the truck over to the side of the road if it detects that the driver has fallen asleep.

Cars driving themselves?

Though the system leaves the driver in control for most of the journey, it instantly steps in and takes corrective measures as soon as it detects an imminent risk – be it a braking car in front or an erratic turn of the wheel.

However, much of the technology developed by the researchers in the SPARC project could contribute to the development of vehicles that drive themselves. In theory, fully automated vehicles that take the human driver out of the equation could be even safer still.

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Coordinator

DAIMLER AG

Address

Mercedesstr. 137
D-70327 Stuttgart

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 1 771 833

Administrative Contact

Armin Sulzmann (Dr.)

Participants (29)

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AUSTRIAMICROSYSTEMS AG

Austria

ENGINEERING CENTER STEYR GMBH & CO KG

Austria

EU Contribution

€ 163 000

ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FEDERALE DE LAUSANNE

Switzerland

EIDGENOESSISCHE TECHNISCHE HOCHSCHULE ZURICH

Switzerland

RUDOLF SCHADOW GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 100 010

JULIUS-MAXIMILIANS UNIVERSITAET WUERZBURG

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 69 000

IRION MANAGEMENT CONSULTING GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 210 000

SIMTEC, SIMULATION TECHNOLOGY GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 175 000

DUERR ASSEMBLY PRODUCTS GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 225 000

UNIVERSITAET STUTTGART

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 794 388

CONTINENTAL TEVES AG & CO. OHG

Germany

MOTOROLA GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 216 041

SIEMENS AG

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 159 894

VDO AUTOMOTIVE AG

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 414 722

IQ POWER DEUTSCHLAND GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 278 000

ETAS ENTWICKLUNGS-UND APPLIKATIONWERKZEUGE FUER ELEKTRONISCHE SYSTEME GMBH & CO.KG

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 198 000

KOEGEL FAHRZEUGWERKE GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 112 000

ESTOP ENGINEERING GMBH & CO. KG.

Germany

FREESCALE HALBLEITER DEUTSCHLAND GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 117 612

GEORG FISCHER VERKEHRSTECHNIK GMBH

Germany

DEUTSCHES ZENTRUM FUER LUFT - UND RAUMFAHRT EV

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 153 027

CAS MUENCHEN GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 39 951

SIEMENS VDO AUTOMOTIVE

France

MANUFACTURE FRANCAISE DES PNEUMATIQUES MICHELIN

France

EU Contribution

€ 50 000

KNORR-BREMSE FEKRENDSZEREK KFT

Hungary

EU Contribution

€ 342 000

YAMAR ELECTRONICS LTD

Israel

EU Contribution

€ 178 000

CENTRO RICERCHE FIAT SCPA

Italy

EU Contribution

€ 252 000

SKF INDUSTRIE S.P.A.

Netherlands

EU Contribution

€ 202 575

HALDEX BRAKE PRODUCTS AB

Sweden

EU Contribution

€ 277 932

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 507859

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    1 January 2004

  • End date

    31 July 2007

Funded under:

FP6-IST

  • Overall budget:

    € 12 598 247

  • EU contribution

    € 6 499 985

Coordinated by:

DAIMLER AG

Germany