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BMW’s left turn assistant puts the brakes on creeping drivers

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May 17, 2011

The left turn assistant is designed to reduce the number of accidents resulting from vehic...

The left turn assistant is designed to reduce the number of accidents resulting from vehicles turning left at intersections

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BMW is working to lessen the number of fatalities caused by drivers turning left at intersections (in left-hand drive countries, that is). When the "left hand drive assistant" detects that the driver intends to turn left, three laser scanners in the front end of the car kick in to map the area up to 100 meters (328 ft) ahead. If the system detects oncoming vehicles and the driver continues to move into the intersection, it will sound a warning and automatically activate the brakes to prevent a collision.

The left turn assistant, which is being tested on the BMW 5 Series test vehicle, recognizes when the vehicle is entering the left turn lane in two ways: through the use of the vehicle's navigation system, which can fix the car's location to within a meter (3.3 ft) at an intersection, and by detecting the turn-off lane markings and lane borders on the road through the use of a mono camera. Another test scenario being run by BMW sees the system being activated when the driver hits the vehicle's turn signal.

Once the system is activated, the three laser scanners in the vehicle's front end scan the area to detect oncoming cars, trucks and motorcycles. If any approaching vehicles are detected and the driver continues to move into the intersection the system will apply the brakes, sound a warning and display a warning in the instrument cluster and head-up display. To ensure the system doesn't slam on the brakes when the vehicle is traveling at high speeds, the system will only apply the brakes if the vehicle is moving at less than 10 km/h (6.2 mph).

The left turn assistant is being tested on the BMW 5 Series test vehicle

To override the system's braking input, the driver need only tap the brake themselves and the brake is released. This allows the driver to continue driving if they are trying to pull the car over to the side of an intersection or clear the way for an emergency vehicle, for example.

BMW says the functionality of the left turn assistant can also be enhanced through the use of vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, such as its WLAN car-to-x communication unit. These allow the vehicles to exchange information, including vehicle type, position, speed, current steering angle and whether the turn indicators are activated. Using such a system in conjunction with the left turn assistant results in an increase in range of the system to 250 meters (820 ft), as well as providing the ability to detect the presence of vehicles that may not be visible to the turning vehicle.

BMW will premiere the left turn assistant at the INTERSAFE 2 Final Event on May 17 and 18 at a closed-off intersection in Wolfsburg, Germany. While the system is designed for left-hand drive countries, we assume it could easily be modified to become a right turn assistant for right-hand drive countries.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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9 Comments

Yeah, very "great idea" and what happens at an intersection wth a stoplight?

In Europe you will very often find yourself in the middle of an intersection when the onciming traffic just got yellow (or already has red), when you try to turn left.

There could be oncoming cars closer than 100 m that will stop at the soon to be red light. So your car will hit the breaks right when you are in the middle of the intersection at the best time to turn left?

I really dont think that I would want that!

Skipjack
17th May, 2011 @ 05:49 am PDT

Skipjack makes a good point but to go on: Does the system detect bicycles given their smaller profile and speed (including recumbents)? Does it detect pedestrians in the zebra? Vehicle-to-vehicle information is also impossible for bicycles and will only be possible with a slowly growing number of initially elite vehicles.

Todd Edelman
17th May, 2011 @ 08:57 am PDT

Just the thought of this gives me nightmares. There had better be a way to disable this because "feature" it would never work here in Guatemala.

Here I can show you thousands of examples of a two-lane highway (one lane in each direction) where you are facing an endless stream of oncoming semi-tractor trailers moving at 80 miles per hour. To make a left turn you must stop while traffic collects behind you and wait for an opening just large enough for you to dash through (given the acceleration capabilities of your vehicle). The opportunity comes and you gun it through. The oncoming traffic will not slow down and expects you to do this. In addition you have to watch for crazy drivers attempting to pass on the left while you are attempting the left turn.

The last thing one needs is for the brakes to be applied a split second before the oncoming semi smashes you flat. At that moment you need every bit of power you can get.

The drivers here are crazy and it's not going to change. It's cultural. Left turns on a motorcycle are especially dangerous because you must time your turns so as to not lower your speed and you must not signal. If you signal a left turn and begin to slow, the traffic behind will immediately begin passing you on the left. If you're not aware of this behavior you can turn left and get broadsided by a vehicle overtaking from behind. Signaling a left turn is therefore inadvisable and slowing is also to be avoided. Adjusting your speed well in advance so that an oncoming gap is synchronized with your arrival at the turn point is the safest way to do it. If there's no oncoming traffic then another approach is to cross over and drive in the oncoming lane while approaching the turn point. This prevents people from overtaking on the left but creates the danger of a head-on with someone turning right coming out of the intersection.

Spectacular and deadly accidents happen all the time where vehicles are pulverized. I certainly don't need a car that applies the brakes when the car "thinks" it's dangerous. To drive here one must face almost constant high danger at close quarters and high speeds.

CaptNemo
17th May, 2011 @ 09:07 am PDT

***YIKES***

"automatically activate the brakes to prevent a collision."

Uh...I don't know if I like this or not! What if you need to get out of the way of a speeding 18 wheeler barreling down on your tail, and the only option you have is to get smashed by the huge Semi behind you or make a left turn that will result in a collision that most likely will not kill you (for those of you just joining us, that 18 wheeler comming at you at 50 mph *WILL* kill you when it hits...)

I don't like that this car will over-ride my self preservation instincts and prevent me from making the only move that will save my life!

Ed
17th May, 2011 @ 01:35 pm PDT

I ABSOLUTELY HATE THIS IDEA........

It never ceases to amaze me that STUPID technically inclined types have "great ideas" that they want to afflict the rest of humanity with.....

(bangs head on desk)

Although I do and or don't like much automated safety stuff - like triple safety interlocks on microwave ovens - good idea - which is a great idea for me and stupid people.....

Seatbelts = great idea...

etc., etc., etc...

I read stories like this and want to grab the developed and beat them up or push them out of the car while it's still moving or something, anything just to get rid of them and their bullshit "nanny state" "control every moment and movement" bullshit.

I mean it's OBVIOUS - it SO obvious that there are and will be times that you do NOT want an automated piece of crap jamming on the brakes of the car for you....

It's like idiots putting in an automated NAG voice, "Your seat belt is undone, your seat belt is undone, your seat belt is undone" - as I drive around at 10Kmh stopping every 20 meters to adjust some irrigation piping, over some 10Km of roads on a farm....

"Oh we think it's a good idea to impost such bullshit on the consumer - they NEED us to install a system in the car to tell them that their seat belt is undone......" (with NO off switch).

Mr Stiffy
17th May, 2011 @ 08:28 pm PDT

Great; now I am going to be stuck behind 60 year old soccer moms as they wait for the Red Sea to part for their Ultimate Sitting Machine.

CleverName
17th May, 2011 @ 08:43 pm PDT

Well,let's consider why BMW looked at this idea in the first place.....it seems that an awfull lot of collisions occur when cars turn across on coming traffic. This sort of accident has frequently tragic outcomes,especially when the innocent victim happens to be on a motorcycle or scooter.

As an everyday and professional motorcyclist, I can attest that BMW is attempting to tackle a real and significant problem. What I see and experience every day has made me think that if you can't keep a car driver alert with their eyes open all the time-perhaps it is better to make the cars smarter to make up for the failings of it's organic contents.

Whilst I hope BMW's system does take into account the some of the potential problems mentioned by my fellow commentators,I applaud BMW for having a go. And hey,after having owned 3 of their bikes, they don't usually get much praise from me!

gragraposker
18th May, 2011 @ 01:00 am PDT

I was thinking back to my first IBM xt computer, and my friends tandy.. Playing games by companies that aren't even in business anymore. I think about all the great companies that have gone under.. ahhh.... Why do people still buy BMWs. I understand they have some great power and some interesting design elements, but a car gets you from place to place... They keep trying to think up new features no one really needs and really few people would do with out. I long for the day when I had mechanical levers to turn on the heat. Now I have to fumble around and determine that my car automatically put on the AC. I have to constantly look down at it, turn off the auto thermostat, turn the dial and watch the number that now doesn't really represent anything. Come on make a small light cheap car, no more electric seats that take a day to move back after you. and why is my kitchen chair so much more comfortable and weights 4 lbs and has legs.. Why are car chairs 80lbs? take plastic, add foam, add fabric. Not complicated.

Michael Mantion
18th May, 2011 @ 11:28 pm PDT

fantastic . left turn assistant , parking assistant , right turn assistant , reverse driving assistant - no wonder bmw drivers are considered illiterate here . they park in two places - not because they can't , but because they don't care . overengineered cars for below the average drivers with big account

Károly Hőss
19th May, 2011 @ 07:50 am PDT
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