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Combatting driver distraction with a circle of light

John Day

John Day

Posted Feb 22, 2013

There is an obvious difference between a driver’s conscious decision to cross a lane marker – to avoid an obstacle on an otherwise clear road, for example – and an unintentional swerving caused by a driver not paying sufficient attention. Can or should a car’s ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) respond differently to either situation? Continental Automotive believes the answer is yes.

Continental developed a Driver Focus vehicle equipped with active safety features including:

  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW) – a camera-based system designed to detect when a driver is veering out of their lane;
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Takeover – a forward-looking radar-based system activated to keep a desired time gap between vehicles, and
  • Forward Collision Warning – a forward-looking sensor-based safety technology.

Besides those, the car has an infrared (IR) camera in the steering column that monitors the driver’s face for eye and head movements to detect where the driver is looking. The car “knows” whether or not the driver sees a dangerous situation or is distracted.

HALO – a 360-degree LED light strip

And then there is Halo, a 360-degree LED light strip inside the car that is integrated with both the interior IR camera and the ADAS technologies. If the IR driver analyzer camera detects that the driver is looking away from the road while approaching a potential traffic hazard the Halo will be activated, creating a light trail that brings the driver’s eyes back where they belong.

Situation-dependent light signals guide the driver’s line of vision toward the source of danger. Warnings and ADAS activation are directly tailored to the driving situation and the driver’s state of attention.

So the LDW will alert only if the driver is not paying attention to the traffic situation. Continental believes that eliminating unnecessary alerts has the potential to minimize additional driver distractions while maintaining overall trust in the LDW alerts.

The ACC Takeover often includes a visual alert in the front of the interior but if the driver is looking to the left, right, or rear, the alert may be missed. The Driver Focus vehicle illuminates all 360 degrees of the Halo for an ACC Takeover.

A forward collision warning can be minimized or suppressed If the driver is paying attention or initiated early on if not.

“Human error is the single cause for about 80 percent of traffic accidents. Among these, driver distraction is a serious issue and plays a major role,” says Dr. Ralf Cramer, executive board member and president of Continental’s Chassis & Safety division.

“The integration of surrounding and in-cabin safety technologies gives us the ability to create a very real relationship between the driver, the vehicle and the environment,” adds Helmut Matschi, executive board member and president of Continental’s Interior Division. “With the Driver Focus vehicle technology we are for the first time able to communicate to the driver based on both the driving situation and in relation to his ability to react at this point in time. It represents the ultimate in HMI, delivering the integration of technology, information and safety systems in a way that supports and assists the driver toward a safer and more enjoyable experience.”

ADAS (advanced driver assistance system), Continental Automotive, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Takeover, infrared (IR) camera, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Distracted Driving, Forward Collision Warning

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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