Most drivers have done it: misjudged a bend in the road and only realized they are travelling too fast when they start wrestling the wheel to stay safely in their lane. A new safety system developed by Nissan could put an end to such situations by warning drivers if they are approaching a curve too fast.
The system, which goes by the somewhat clunky "navigation-cooperative intelligent pedal" name, monitors the car's location via the navigation system and keeps an eye out for upcoming curves and bends in the road. It judges the maximum safe speed from the tightness of the curve and then keeps a watch on the car's speed.
If the car is approaching the curve too fast, it first triggers a warning announcement from the navigation system that there's a curve ahead.
Should the driver not decelerate, an actuator connected to the accelerator will push the pedal up to reduce the flow of fuel to the engine and then gently apply the brakes to reduce speed. When the car gets to the safe speed for the curve the system disengages.
In a demonstration of the system at Nissan's test track outside of Tokyo, it worked without fail each time a sharp bend was approached too fast.
For a driver who has misjudged the tightness of the curve, as opposed to one who is not concentrating, the audible warning could be an easy one to ignore, but it was quite difficult to ignore the accelerator being pushed up. It's of course possible to push back, but when the car starts fighting your speed it would be a brave driver who ignores such a warning.
"By using this system, drivers can feel more peace of mind and drive more easily," said Kazuhiro Doi, general manager in Nissan's technology development division.
The system will begin appearing in production cars later this year when it debuts in Nissan's Fuga car in Japan.
The same car will also introduce a second safety system designed to help cars get more safely around curves. Called "active stability assist," the system works to synchronize braking, steering and engine response so that the driver feels more in control when heading through tight curves, such as those on winding mountain roads.
When enabled, the system should result in a smoother and more controlled ride through sharp turns.
Both safety systems are part of Nissan's safety shield concept, which seeks to prevent the car from entering a situation where a collision is unavoidable.
"Our goal is to create a collision-free vehicle," said Doi. "Historically all automakers have tried to create safer vehicles, especially with airbags or a safety body, and such a system works when you crash. Recently we could realize a lot of electronics-based systems, and by using them detect the risk and work the brakes or steering before you get into a risky situation."