Transparent cockpit helps to avoid shunting accidents

February 19, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Transparent cockpit helps to avoid shunting accidents
The blind spot when looking out of the cockpit is all too often to blame for serious road traffic accidents. The Fraunhofer Institute IOSB (Karlsruhe, Germany) has developed a "transparent cockpit" and is convinced that this technology can help prevent accidents.

In cooperation with Rio, a subsidiary of the truck and bus manufacturer MAN, the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, Systems Technology and Image Evaluation IOSB designed, implemented and evaluated a novel vehicle assistance system for truck maneuvers. With the help of virtual reality glasses and stereo cameras, it makes the vehicle virtually transparent, so that the driver can see all obstacles directly and three-dimensionally at their real position. Strictly speaking, the system creates an extended representation of reality, a superimposition of the normal driver's perspective with a virtual view generated by a computer based on the camera images.

"The goal of this method is to reduce the number of accidents when maneuvering with trucks and cars. Until now, drivers often overlook obstacles or rely too much on existing assistance systems," explains Daniel Secker, who devised the system. Especially for trucks with trailers, it is only possible to detect the relevant environment with additional mirrors. Even objects directly in front of the vehicle can only be seen indirectly. This is a potential source of error and increases the reaction time.

The transparent cockpit, on the other hand, should enable intuitive visualization. An algorithm recognizes the position of objects in space on the basis of the camera images and colors them orange when approaching; if they fall below a safety distance, the color changes to red.

In a user study, Secker asked 15 test persons to park their cars backwards - without and with VR glasses. The result: the drivers can actually assess the distance better through the glasses, but only by highlighting the obstacles in colour. The VR glasses alone did not lead to the desired effect.

However, Secker admits that the virtual reality glasses used are still too bulky for a really practical system. "We would need practical VR or even augmented reality glasses for this." The driver could wear the latter permanently like a normal pair of glasses; only during


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