Unlike previous Navlab projects, the Run Off Road Collision Countermeasures program is not aimed at autonomous driving, but rather at driver assist. The goal is to have a computer vision system monitor the vehicle's position in the lane while a person drives. Then, if the person starts to fall asleep and drift off the road, the computer can wake the driver before a collision occurs. The first phase of this project is now complete. It consisted of statistical analysis of the accident data to determine the causes of accidents, computer simulations of accident trajectories to identify the opportunities and times for intervention, prototyping of a vision system for determining lane position, and experiments in a driving simulator to measure human reaction to various warning systems.
The results of this first phase are very interesting. Of the nearly 42,000 highway fatalities each year in the US, nearly 1/3rd of them are caused by single vehicle roadway departures. Frequent causes of these road departures are driver inattention, driver impairment due to fatigue or alcohol, and excessive speed, particularly when approaching curves. To combat these problems, we have developed several prototype collision warning systems. The first, called RALPH, is a vision system that tracks the vehicle's position in the lane even in inclement weather. RALPH warns the driver if he begins to drift off the road, or is weaving excessively due to drowsiness or impairment. The second is a combination GPS and digital map system, that warns the driver if he is approaching a curve at too high a speed.
The next phase of the project is now under way. This consist of building a new test vehicle, the Navlab 8, and performing on the road tests. The first set of tests will use RALPH in a passive mode, to measure typical lane-tracking behavior of several test drivers on a variety of roads. This will be used to set lane departure warning thresholds low enough to not generate false alarms, but sensitive enough to provide ample warning. The next set of tests will involve extended duration tests of the complete warning system, testing both drivers in the Navlab 8 minivan and professional truckers.