European researchers have developed a special dashboard computer to act as a single conduit for all devices emerging in modern cars, such as GPS, mobile, PDAs and other intelligent car technologies. It should mean a better, more relaxed and even safer driving experience.
Currently there are dozens of research projects around Europe working on new technologies to improve automotive safety and to develop intelligent vehicles. But all of these systems must then be added to the numerous controls and user devices that are already found in a car.
Current in-vehicle systems - such as open door and seat belt warnings - will soon be joined by lane assistance, hazard detection and a host of other information and systems for safe and efficient driving.
Angelos Amditis, dissemination manager of the EU-funded AIDE integrated project, comments: "There is a real risk the driver will become overwhelmed as the number of in-car systems multiply. There are so many potential demands on driver attention from these new systems that they could prove distracting."
AIDE was set up to tackle this potential problem by developing an Adaptive, Integrated Driver-vehicle interface. The AIDE system provides a 'clearing house' for all of the systems operating in a car and to interact with the driver.
This central intelligence can prioritise and emphasise the most important and urgent information, based on the driver's state and current driving conditions, and it can put all other non-essential alerts on hold.
AIDE designed the technology to prioritise demands on the driver's attention, depending driving conditions. If the car is approaching a tricky junction, for example, it can hold all mobile calls and text messages, or suspend non-safety-critical information.
The AIDE system can support many different functions and help to ensure that drivers get the best possible use out of those functions, and that the system is safe and easy to use. It works by sharing input and output controls among the various subsystems, such as collision avoidance or the mobile phone unit. It then co-ordinates information centrally, deciding the best course of action for both a given driving situation and the driver's current state.
If the driver is distracted, for example, the system issues warnings with greater intensity. AIDE also developed the interface so that it could adapt to different types of driver. It is possible to personalise the warning, the media, timing and its intensity according to the driver's explicit and implicit preferences.
AIDE was popular among drivers in field tests, with approximately 50 per cent of the test subjects reporting that they appreciated support from the system. That is a surprising result, given that many drivers find in-car systems – like seat belt and door warnings – annoying, and it is very difficult to develop a comfortable interface. But AIDE succeeded in developing helpful software rather than what could easily be annoying 'nag-ware.'
The AIDE project received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research in 'information society' technologies.