BMW Emergency Stop Assistant Explained
German manufacturer BMW takes once again to the front of safety systems research and, together with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany has launched a research program intended mostly to benefit elderly drivers. The SmartSenior – intelligent services for senior citizens is the program through which BMW is working on the development of the Emergency Stop Assistant.
Although far from being complete, the Assistant is basically intended to stop the car when it detects a health problem with the driver. Whereas, for instance OnStar, does detect injuries and notifies authorities, hence providing after-event information, the Assistant is planned to be a during-event help system which will stop the car instead of the impaired driver. How it is supposed to do this is explained below.
The Emergency Stop Assistant is based on two types of sensors. On the one hand it has sensors designed to monitor the vital life signs of the driver and on the other hand it benefits from BMW's ConnectedDrive assistance systems. When the vital signs monitor detects the driver has become impaired, the Assistant kicks in and automatically activates an autonomous driving mode. The system then turns on the hazard warning lights and starts maneuvering, while taking into account the traffic conditions in which it finds itself in. When it detects it has reached the outer edge of the road, the vehicle grinds to a halt.
Once the safety of the car and of the driver have been insured, an emergency signal is sent to rescue services, containing the data required for emergency services and traffic coordinators (should traffic be disturbed by the incident) to move in.
Due to the fact that the number of situations to be taken into account is too great for this early stages of the system, BMW will be developing it for use in motorways alone, for the time being at least. Still, the Emergency Stop Assistant will be the first system to detect the health condition of a driver even if the car has not been involved in an accident. Don't expect it to call 911 if you have a sore throat, though...
BMW plans that in the future all these types of safety systems to become more complex. In addition to the functions described above, the manufacturer intends on developing a way to transmit vital physiological data to the emergency services, with the help of all the 29 partners involved in the development of the SmartSenior systems, including Siemens and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
The idea of the Emergency Stop Assistant will further benefit from its possible integration with other technologies, like Lane Departure Warning and Active Cruise Control. BMW already has in place an emergency call function, which assesses injuries of the car's passengers in case of an accident based on sensors of passive safety systems like airbags.
There is one major obstacle in achieving a reliable system in terms of reading one's vital signs. BMW has to find a way for the sensors of the Stop Assistant to detect the physiological data of the driver (heart rate, breathing) without entangling the drivers in wires.
Another issue is the development of an algorithm which will allow emergency services to pinpoint the vehicle within its lane, as well as make the car's computer able to identify objects in the area surrounding the car.
What we now know from the aeronautic industry as an auto pilot is yet to be fully developed for cars. Should a driver become incapacitated, the computer must be able to take his/her place and make decisions on its own. BMW calls this an electronic coordinator and work has already begun to find ways to make it take driving decisions.