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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BMW Developing Left Turn Assistant For Those Who Have Difficulty Safely Turning Left

May 19, 2011 at 10:07am by Alexander Stoklosa

BMW’s Left Turn Assistant is an autonomous safety feature for drivers who get sweaty palms when trying to turn left at an intersection. (People like this exist, right?) As the feature’s name indicates, Left Turn Assistant activates when it determines a driver is about to turn left at an intersection. The system knows what you’re doing by using a camera to read the road markers that indicate a left-turn lane, and uses the car’s nav system and mapping data to locate the car to within a meter of its actual location. When the driver flips on their turn signal the Left Turn Assistant springs into action.

Three front-mounted laser scanners map an area up to 100 meters in front of the car, identifying oncoming cars, trucks, and motorcycles. If the driver attempts to turn left into certain death or dismemberment, the Left Turn Assistant fires up warning sounds and dash lights and applies the brakes. The system only works at speeds up to 6 mph, so drivers are free to chance a left turn at high speed without electronic intervention. BMW notes that once the system is active, a driver need only tap the accelerator to override the auto braking, and much like most lane-departure systems, Left Turn Assistant thankfully can be shut off entirely.

BMW adds that the system can be even more effective when combined with vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology—which allow cars to “know” where other cars are around them—increasing the range of oncoming vehicle detection to 250 meters and even allowing two cars on a collision course to “talk” to one another and act accordingly. BMW figures that the car-to-car communication would take over in the likely instance of a car following a line of cars through a left turn, in which its sensors would be blocked by the cars in front of it. Both the left-bound and oncoming cars could potentially pick up where the sensors leave off.

Left Turn Assistant is still in development and was publicly demonstrated on a BMW 5-series test vehicle at an intersection in Wolfsburg over the past couple of days. The tech is several years away from series production, and maximizing the full capabilities of the system would require the proliferation of car-to-car communication. We acknowledge that many accidents happen as a result of bungled left turns, but do you know what else can scan 250 meters in front of a car to determine the presence of oncoming traffic and the judge the safety of executing a left turn? A driver.

Tags: BMW, safety, technology |

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