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Big cities are attractive: the German capital Berlin for example has been growing continuously for the past ten years, though that is nothing compared to megacities like Beijing, which are already home to more than 20 million people. The traffic problems they face are similar, however: numbers of pedestrians and cyclists are increasing all the time, and more cars, buses and trains are on the roads transporting people and goods. It is hardly surprising then that most traffic accidents occur in cities.
Technologies for safe traffic
How can intelligent technologies manage traffic systems so as to avoid congestion and accidents? To find answers to such questions, the Institute of Transportation Systems in Braunschweig has set up the Application Platform for Intelligent Mobility (AIM), a large-scale research and development facility.
- using radar and cameras to monitor the movements of all road users at a four-lane intersection in the city centre,
- car journey simulators,
- road sections equipped with communication systems for trialling assisted driving systems.
All of these different elements are carefully coordinated. The traffic researchers analyse the movement data they collect from the intersection and draw on what they learn about the behaviour of road users when developing assisted driving systems. These are tested first on a simulator and later on test sections in real-life traffic situations.
Getting traffic flowing
Many cars are already equipped with assisted driving systems. They help the driver find the best route, brake automatically when other cars come too close or take care of parking the vehicle. For Frank Köster, an expert in automated driving at the Institute of Transportation Systems, this is just the beginning, however: “In the future, all vehicles will share data with one another and will communicate with traffic lights or road signs.” This will allow coordinated driving and parking, he explains, meaning that congestion and accidents can be avoided.
Gaining time despite congestion
Vehicles travelling around autonomously – which Köster believes could already be a reality on motorways in as little as two to three years’ time – is not so easy to achieve in cities. “The traffic situation with all the different road users is too complex”, says Frank Köster. What he does believe feasible, on the other hand, is a “congestion pilot” system which would take control the moment a vehicle gets caught up in a traffic jam: “This would allow drivers to use time which would otherwise have been wasted. They could concentrate on phone calls, write e-mails or simply relax.” Once traffic starts moving again, the driver would have to take over again – until the next motorway is reached.
Institute of Transportation Systems
The Institute of Transportation Systems works on solutions for safe and efficient mobility in the future.www.dlr.de > Institute of Transportation Systems
Application Platform for Intelligent Mobility (AIM)
The Application Platform for Intelligent Mobility (AIM) is a large-scale research and development facility for intelligent mobility services.www.dlr.de > Application Platform for Intelligent Mobility