Display to help drivers avoid collisions in poor-visibility developed at GCU

29 August 2014

Display to help drivers avoid collisions in poor-visibility developed at GCU

A fighter-jet-style windscreen display that alerts drivers to the whereabouts of other cars in dense fog is being developed at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

The innovative Head-Up Display (HUD) is the work of Professor Vassilis Charissis and his team, based in the Virtual Reality and Simulation Laboratory (VRS Lab) within the School of Engineering and Built Environment.

The display has been developed and evaluated in a 3D driving simulator, which allows ‘drivers’ to navigate a perfectly recreated stretch of the M8, M74 and M80 in a choice of conditions.

One of the options lets the driver tackle the motorways in dense fog, before giving them the chance to drive the same stretch again using the HUD. When initiated, the windscreen of the car highlights where other vehicles are on the motorway within a 400-metre range and even lets the driver know when it’s safe to change lanes.

Professor Charissis said: “Driving is a demanding psychomotor activity which can be significantly hampered by adverse weather conditions. Drivers’ spatial and situational awareness suffers in such conditions, as neighbouring vehicles and other objects can be hard to see and avoid.

“Being able to see clearly obstacles on the road while driving, despite visual restrictions such as thick fog, is important to avoid collisions. Head-up Displays (HUDs) are a potential solution to this problem as they can provide the user with information directly in the field of view, allowing the driver to remain focused on the road.

“The HUD system projects crucial information on the windscreen, using augmented digital input to enhance the real environment. The presented data can provide notification of road markings, the proximity of neighbouring vehicles and warnings of traffic congestion to enhance human responses and improve driving safety.”

Professor Charissis, an award-winning computer scientist and engineer who has participated in multiple commercial and academic projects investigating Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), analysed extensively the roads and traffic between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling in order to simulate ‘real-life’ driving scenarios, complete with road signage, buildings, landmarks and vegetation.

A photorealistic 3D model of a BMW 5 Series car has been developed for accommodating the HUD interface and to enhance the realism of the simulation. The driving simulator allows the user to drive in clear conditions and thick fog, clearly illustrating the requirement for HUD interfaces to display information which the driver no longer has access to when driving ‘blind’.

More than 150 user trials have already been performed during the evaluation of the different iterations of the innovative HUD interface, which present significantly improved response times for a large variety of everyday drivers and reduced the rear collision probability under low visibility by 70% on average.

Professor Charissis’ previous work has proved the efficiency of earlier versions of the HUD interface in various adverse weather conditions, where the system improved the collision avoidance rate significantly. As such, the improved HUD has the potential to be used as an intelligent transportation system within emergency services vehicles as well as civilian vehicles, under low visibility conditions.

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