March 13, 2003

GM conducts field tests of collison avoidance technology

Warren, Michigan – In one of the largest field trials of its kind, General Motors and a group of partners will enlist about 80 Michigan drivers to test vehicles equipped with both forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems – two emerging technologies that could help reduce rear-end crashes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), GM and Delphi Automotive are funding the project, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) is under contract to conduct the 10-month field test beginning this month. The test, involving 10 Buick LeSabres, is the latest phase of a five-year, $35-million partnership formed in 1999 to develop and evaluate collision avoidance technologies. GM led the integration of the system and the assembly of the test vehicles.

GM and Delphi Delco Electronics provide the technical application in adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and driver interface. Although basic collision avoidance technologies are in the marketplace, no one until now has developed multi-sensor technologies that integrate both adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning systems. The test system, developed by GM and Delphi, is an improvement over previous versions because of the system’s ability to reduce false alerts and detect slowed or stopped vehicles faster around curves. Furthermore, no one has ever performed such an extensive field test of these technologies.

“This program is the most extensive collision warning field operational test ever undertaken. It is designed to gauge the effectiveness of such a system under real-world driving conditions, as well as driver acceptance of the technology,” said Larry Burns, GM Vice President, Research & Development and Planning.

UMTRI is managing the field test and analyzing the data. Licensed men and women in their 20s, 40s and 60s from Southeastern Michigan were randomly selected with the assistance of the Michigan Secretary of State.

“The research program is a cooperative agreement,” said Ray Owings, Ph.D., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Associate Administrator for Advanced Research and Analysis. “That means DOT has a responsibility to contribute technical information and provide other support to make the project a success.”

Researchers will study, among other things, if drivers experience fewer “close following” or “rapid-closing” driving situations that could lead to crashes, and if the performance of these systems meets consumer expectations.

The forward collision warning system being tested uses electronic sensors, Global Positioning System technology and radar to provide audio and visual warnings to a driver who is approaching a slowed or stopped object too rapidly, or who is following a vehicle too closely. The warning signals the driver that he may need to brake quickly or make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision. The visual warnings are illuminated in front of the driver on a head-up display on the windshield.

“The head-up display is a very important feature of these tests, and it is in keeping with GM’s philosophy to maximize drivers’ ability to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,” said Burns.

Adaptive cruise control greatly expands the convenience of cruise control, especially in traffic. The system uses the same sensors as the forward collision warning system, including the radar sensor mounted at the front of the car to detect objects in its path. If the lane ahead is clear, the system will maintain the set speed, just like conventional cruise control. When a vehicle is detected in the same lane in front of the car, the system will adjust vehicle speed by applying limited braking or acceleration to maintain a driver-selected follow distance (or time headway) to the vehicle ahead. This system also provides visual and auditory warning to the driver when he needs to take over braking control, as well as forward collision warnings.

If ultimately incorporated into vehicles, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems could help drivers avoid or reduce the number of rear-end crashes, which account for about 29 percent of all police-reported crashes.

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