DETROIT -- In about four years, U.S. drivers could begin seeing intelligent transportation systems, in which the road will communicate with drivers, a Denso Corp. executive said today at the Detroit auto show.
In such systems, drivers would receive wireless warnings about traffic congestion or whats coming up at the next intersection.
Doug Patton, senior vice president of Denso International America, said the Japanese auto supplier is working with industry groups and government agencies to set standards and test the effectiveness of dedicated short-range communications technology, which allows data to be transmitted from the road to vehicles.
Our intent is to expand the horizon of awareness for drivers and provide them necessary information quickly and conveniently, Patton told reporters.
More help on the way
In an interview with Automotive News, Patton said widespread use of other technologies that provide warnings to drivers is not far away. Among the first will be lane-departure notification systems and collision-avoidance systems, which are already available in some vehicles.
He said that as the federal government looks at ways to revise its New Car Assessment Program, currently known as its five-star crash rating system, such technologies will become more prevalent.
As those things become part of societys recognition for safety, the automakers and the suppliers look to put those in more vehicles, Patton said.
Once the warning technologies have been adopted, the next step is systems that act in response to the warning, he said.
Patton outlined several of Densos technologies related to safety and reduction of driver distraction.
Denso is working on haptic devices, which use forces, vibrations or clicks to give drivers a better feel for the devices they are operating so that the drivers can keep their eyes on the road.
Denso is developing a haptic roller dial that will be mounted on a vehicles steering wheel. The device will let drivers control multiple vehicle functions by operating the dial with their thumbs while still gripping the steering wheel. Other types of haptic devices that may gain popularity are center-console controls that function like joysticks, similar to BMWs iDrive.
I think theyll become more prevalent as time goes on, especially because you can provide more functions in those devices as opposed to a touch screen, Patton said. And also theres the issue of reaching the touch screen. Thats another distraction.
Best of both worlds
If you combine haptic and head-up display technology, he said, You can kind of get the benefit of both worlds. You can keep your eyes on the road and you can get the feel for whatever you want to control.
But Patton said there is only so much that technology can do to reduce driver distraction because there are so many distractions unrelated to operating a car, such as a driver sipping coffee or dealing with children in the back seat. When driver distraction goes down that route, these things dont help, he said.
Patton said Denso also is working on technologies that monitor a drivers physical condition, such as eye blinks and heart rate.
Denso ranks No. 3 in the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with an estimated $24.00 billion in original equipment auto parts sales in 2006.