Crash alert modems to the rescue

Feb. 22, 2006
A recently unveiled in-car modem system not only senses a vehicle crash, but sends out information so that emergency services can quickly locate the accident.

In the event of an automobile collision, an innovative series of incar modems with on-board sensors are now able to detect the speed and direction of the impact.

This information, which is fed back to emergency services or any other third party, reports the exact location of the crash. The Trac (Total Remote Access and Control) Modems, developed by Alpha Micro Components, Hampshire, U.K., are equipped with an integrated on-board impact sensor, ignition cut relay circuit, a GPRS modem, and GPS receiver (see the figure).

Another benefit of Trac concerns car theft, which makes up almost a third of all reported crime. Trac Automotive, Alpha Micro’s smallest external modem to date, can be discreetly placed within a vehicle. If the car is stolen, its ignition can be cut remotely once it comes to a comhplete stop and is safe to be immobilised.

Alternatively, instructions can be sent via the modem to instruct the car to turn on the horn, to help attract the attention of passers-by. According to Christos Papakyriacou, managing director, Alpha Micro Components, “This solution has been exclusively designed for the automotive market, following on from the success of Trac Monitor, our first external GPRS modem. We have taken this modem to the next level and included some additional gadgetry that can raise the alarm in the event of a crash, or bring the vehicle to a halt should it be stolen.

“This technology is currently being used to great success in many countries with private healthcare and ambulance service, and the solution has many potential applications within the U.K. market. For example, Trac Automotive would enable accident claims to be processed much quicker and have unequivocal proof of who is to blame for the accident, as well as being able to reduce incidents for car theft.”

Steering clear of accidents

Still on the subject of avoiding road casualties, Spanish researchers at the University of Alcalá created a cruise-control system that automatically slows a car down to avoid possible collisions.

The system uses a dashboard camera to monitor traffic; its video feed identifies road markings and scans the road for other vehicles. Then other vehicles are monitored in case they come too close to the car. The crash-avoidance system, connected to the car’s accelerator and brake, can either slow the vehicle down or stop it completely in response to vehicles ahead. One challenge was how to teach the computer to distinguish vehicles from other objects, and to identify new car models. The answer: a machine-learning concept called support vector matching. It "teaches" the computer the visual characteristics to associate with a car.

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