Using advances in sensors and semiconductors, engineers are developing and testing on-board, knowledge-based technologies for collision avoidance, as well as systems that stabilize vehicles in crash scenarios.
For instance, a firm in Germany has built a system that receives feedback on the automobile's lateral acceleration, movement of the steering wheel and other factors. When the system detects deviation, it automatically throttles the engine, applies the brakes and corrects steering to bring the vehicle under control and avoid a crash.
Other research on intelligent vehicles is focused on knowledge-based systems that monitor the driver's level of attention while operating a vehicle. These telematic systems, currently in the experimental stage, can monitor a driver's hand and foot positions, body posture, and even eye movement.
Some collision-warning devices have already entered consumer markets. For example, the 2003 Jaguar features a system that advises a driver to brake in the approach of slow-moving traffic. It also tells the driver whether the cruise control function is on or off.
Engineers are at the forefront of these technologies for intelligent vehicles and intelligent highway systems. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers provides a useful forum for information exchange in automotive technology and many other areas. For information and inquiries regarding membership, visit ASME at www.asme.org.