Can't bother to turn your head to check for traffic before making a left-hand turn? Don't worry: BMW's developing an app (and hardware) for that. The company revealed earlier this week that its R&D team is working on what it calls a Left Turn Assistant, which is an accident avoidance system that combines camera, laser, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication technologies in order to make low-speed left turns and U-turn maneuvers safer.
According to BMW, the left turn assistant system automatically activates by using a combination of two inputs. First, it will use the vehicle positioning function from the navigation system to detect when the car is within a meter of an intersection. If that's the case, the system will then use a camera to locate road markings and borders typically used to indicate a turn-off or left-turn lane.
Once activated, laser technology is used to detect cars within 100 meters in oncoming traffic. If the car continues into the intersection and path of an accident, the left turn assistant will sound an alert and display warnings on the instrument panel and heads-up display. Additionally, the system will automatically bring the car to a complete stop by applying the brakes. The automatic brake feature will only work at speeds up to 10 km/h (about 6 mph) and has an override feature.
While much of the technology just mentioned—cameras, lasers and automatic brake application—is already used in today’s accident avoidance systems such as adaptive cruise control, BMW’s left turn assistant adds vehicle-to-vehicle communication to the mix. The automaker says that the use of a wireless local area network (WLAN) device will increase the vehicle detection feature from 100 meters to 250 -- a boon when blind corners or small vehicles (BMW mentions motorcyclists may benefit from this system the most) are thrown into the mix. Since the system works by exchanging vehicle data such as speed and steering angle, both vehicles would have to be equipped with the WLAN device for the system to work.
The left turn assistant, which was developed as part of the European Union Intersafe 2 partnership to improve safety at road intersections, is still in its testing phase, and is only installed in a 5 series demonstrator at this point. No word yet on if such a system will ultimately become part of BMW's production-ready electro-nannies.
What say you: is this system a good idea, or is it just another sign that today's drivers have become a bit too lazy when behind the wheel? Send us your thoughts on the matter to us by means of the comments section below.