Automatic traffic sign recognition fights wrong-way driving on motorways

January 21, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
After a series of fatal accindents on German highways in the past months, caused by so-called wrong-way drivers, carmakers were mulling over technological approaches to avoid such accidents. Daimler now comes up with a assistance system that tackles the issue by recognizing no-entry road signs.

Actually, the number of wrong-way drivers on high-speed Autobahn is much higher than just the spectacular cases that made it to the headlines. The German motoring club ADAC estimates that about 2800 of these "phantom drivers" how they are called in Germany are observed on the Autobahn every year.

In order to prevent drivers from entering highways via the wrong slip road, Daimler has developed a traffic sign assistance system that warns drivers should they violate traffic regulations and ignore no-entry signs.

The technical core of the system is a camera on the inside of the windscreen. It visually identifies no-entry signs and sends the information obtained to the computer in the on-board electronics. If it detects that the vehicle is about to pass the relevant prohibitory signs and is entering a motorway slip road, the system warns the driver. Three loud beeps are issued and a red no-entry symbol lights up in the display in order to make the driver aware of the danger.

In order to further improve the reliability of the system, the electronics compare the data from the camera with navigation data. The other functions of the traffic sign assistance system also benefit from this feature, which also includes the detection and display of speed limits and no-overtaking signs as well as the signs indicating the end of these particular restrictions.

If poor visibility limits the system's optics too much – during heavy snow flurries, for example – the system reports to the driver that it is "temporarily unavailable".

The new traffic sign assistance system will initially be available in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the facelifted E-Class. It will then be gradually introduced into other models. Initially the system will be designed primarily for use in Germany. The company however emphasizes that it is working intensively on adapting the system for use in other countries