Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Driver Support

Author Valerie Shuman (Schuman Consulting Group, USA)

Driver support systems are designed to monitor the driving environment and influence the drivers’ actions. In some cases, they can intervene to modify the driving task. These systems actively help drivers to control the vehicle. They can warn drivers about imminent risky situations or manoeuvres (conscious or unintentional) – or physically prevent them from driving dangerously (such as, exceeding a safe speed limit).

Driver support systems can be deployed in a variety of ways, including:

  • autonomously (fully contained within the vehicle)
  • connected (reliant on information from outside the vehicle)
  • coordinated (reliant on coordination between the vehicle and other vehicles and the road infrastructure – specifically the road traffic control system)

The decreasing cost of in-vehicle technology and the proliferation of smartphones has significantly broadened the availability and diversity of driver support systems. They fall into two groups:

  • Advisory Systems provide the driver with helpful information and warning alerts
  • Warning and Control systems take partial or full control of the vehicle from the driver in safety-critical situations

Advisory Systems

Advisory systems fall into three broad categories:
  • pre-trip and en-route information and services – such as navigation, route guidance and driver feedback (See Pre-trip information and (See En-route Information)
  • driver services – such as roadside assistance and eCall – and various smartphone “apps” aimed at “infotainment” and local services supporting travel and transport (See Location Based Services)
  • probe data (See Probe Vehicles)

Advisory systems are intended to assist drivers to complete their journeys safely and efficiently – by preventing problems from occurring and helping drivers to make informed decisions along the way.

Warning and Control Systems

Warning and Control Systems fall into four broad categories:

Warning and control systems can provide alerts to improve driver behaviour (for example, to encourage eco-driving or to counter driver tiredness) or take action to make the driving task easier. More advanced systems may take partial or full control of the vehicle in safety-critical situations where the driver response is not sufficient to avoid an accident – or to assist with a routine driving task, such as parking.

Automotive manufacturers have steadily been incorporating sensors and systems that help the driver to monitor the driving environment – for example, to detect lane-keeping or the presence of other vehicles and pedestrians. Methods of communicating data between vehicles and with the infrastructure (“V2X” data) are also being established. (See Connected Vehicles)

Recent developments include:

  • a basic level of automation – in which the vehicle can handle certain limited functions under driver supervision
  • fully automated solutions that do not require any driver involvement – these are being trialled and are expected to become available in the next few years.

From a road operator’s perspective, these types of systems present both opportunities and challenges. Widespread deployment could reduce overall accident rates and improve the safety and efficiency of travel. Automated driving represents a fundamental change to road transport operations – but the full implications have not yet been assessed. (See PIARC Report: The Connected Vehicle)

Reference sources

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