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Could an Accident Warning System Help Prevent Car Accidents?

Researchers at General Motors Research Israel and Professor Shai Avidan of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Engineering have been working to develop a rapid alarm system that could warn drivers of an impending car accident. If they are successful, they will develop a device that gives drivers advance notice of conditions that are leading to a car accident. The researchers hope that the alarm system will allow drivers the time to brace for a collision or take evasive last-moment maneuvers to avoid an accident.

Research has shown that drivers need only half of a second notice to prevent an accident. This is all the time needed for most drivers to swerve out of the way or slam on the brakes. Unfortunately, however, not all drivers perceive a danger in time to prevent a pedestrian accident or car accident. Researchers hope that the alarm system will provide this window of opportunity and therefore prevent more accidents.

In addition to preventing fatal car accidents, the alarm system might also help prevent some serious injuries. Passengers in a car heading for an accident could, even if unable to prevent the accident, brace for the collision and therefore protect their heads and vital organs, possibly preventing serious brain injuries and other injuries.

Avidan and other researchers are using advanced algorithms to develop the alarm systems, which would make use of cameras mounted on the cars. The cameras would capture road data while the algorithms would allow the vehicle’s system to effectively “detect” dangerous conditions that pose a risk of accidents. This system, researchers believe, would give drivers advance notice of possible risks, allowing them to drive more defensively or at least act quickly to minimize injuries.

Researchers, however, face a number of challenges with the alarm system. The alarm system, for example, must be able to differentiate people and actual threats on the road from other objects which might produce a “false alarm.” Since accidents occur in a moment, the system must also be very fast in order to alert driver of possible danger in time.

One part of the equation which might help make the system more effective is the camera. As computer vision technology and smart camera technology become more advanced, it is easier for cameras to capture and relay information more rapidly and more accuracy. Professor Avidan has already been part of the research team behind the development of the MobilEye smart camera system. The camera tracks and detects cameras in real time.