The driver just did not see the No entry sign on the freeway entrance, and before he knew it he was on the wrong side of the road, traveling against the oncoming flow of traffic. This is a deadly hazard: Since October 2012 alone, 19 people in Germany have been killed by wrong-way drivers. ADAC traffic expert Andreas Hölzel: On German freeways, around three percent of all fatal accidents every year are caused by wrong-way drivers. This equates to some 20 deaths per year. But the unreported figures are much higher, says the Frankfurt-based traffic sociologist Alfred Fuhr. It is estimated that anywhere between three and fifteen cases of wrong-way driving occur each day in Germany.
e accidents – which often have grave consequences – could be avoided in the future: State-of-the-art driver assistance systems offer effective protection against potential hazards. For example, a system developed by the international automotive supplier Continental detects that the vehicle is traveling in the wrong direction and alerts the driver with the appropriate warning signals, either through clear visual information output on a head-up display or on the instrument cluster, or via an intense acoustic signal. Haptic feedback in the form of, for instance, a brief application of the brakes, steering wheel vibrations, or a tightening of the seatbelt is also possible.
In 2013, the first Continental-developed system will enter series production with a major German automotive manufacturer. This system is based on a mono-camera, which is fitted behind the windshield at the height of the rear-view mirror and recognizes, among other things, the No entry sign. Depending on the requirements of the automotive manufacturer, the visual, acoustic, and haptic warning signals can be output in any sequence and to any degree of intensity. Various customizable configurations are available when it comes to the precise sequence of the warning cascade, says Guido Meier-Arendt, a technical expert in the field of human–machine interfaces at Continental, describing the benefits of the system. For example, haptic feedback can be configured such that it only kicks in if the driver ignores the visual and acoustic signals. The system can also interpret, among other things, speed limits or electronic variable signs and output the information for the driver on a dashboard display.
To provide even greater safety in the future, plans are being made to link the system with the vehicle-to-vehicle communication system Vehicle-to-X. This will alert drivers directly to the presence of nearby vehicles traveling in the wrong direction – and much more quickly and effectively than radio traffic announcements too. Wolfgang Fey, who heads the research and development of advanced driver-assistance systems in Continental's Chassis & Safety division, talks about planned enhancements to the warning systems: If a driver is identified on the basis of various data as being a wrong-way driver and does not respond to the warnings, a system that automatically brakes the vehicle to prevent something far more serious is conceivable in the future.