Driving slowly on the highway or overtaking another motorist at breakneck speed, it can really get on road user’s nerves. But apart from the major annoyances caused by this driving behaviour, it is also dangerous. Chao Wang is graduating at the TU/e with an augmented reality app that he came up with against road rage. “In America, it is a big problem, 1500 people there die every year because of road rage according to research.”
“The traditional industry is working on building cars and saving as much money as possible. But the focus should be on the new technology and connectivity within the automotive industry.”Chao Wang, creator augmented reality app
According to him, the problem lies in the limited communication in the car. “It is totally different from face to face communication. You can only honk, wave your arms or use your lights. Moreover, you have no idea who’s behind the wheel in the car in front of you. It is easier to get mad at someone, or something you don’t know. Secondly, the context is often missing, you don’t know why somebody is driving so fast. That leads to a lot of misunderstandings, which can be avoided it you have more understanding for each other. And finally, driving leads to social isolation. Drivers are basically trapped in their car, they try to get out of it by making phone calls or texting. Even though they know this can lead to dangerous situations.”
Wang came up with a social system in the car that gives context to the driving behaviour of fellow road users. “It’s all about communication. Through several pieces of research in car simulators and user surveys, I found out that people can better sympathize with each other’s behaviour if they know the reason behind it. If you get overtaken with 200 km/h and you don’t know why that is happening, you might get frustrated or angry. But when you know that the wife of the driver is about to give birth and quickly needs to get to the hospital, the chance you’ll have sympathy is much bigger. There is an understanding for each other.”
“With this system, it is also possible to give your car ‘stickers’, you can show other road users what interests you, with equal interests, the systems give a sort of match. But you can also react to the driving behaviour of other drivers. Suppose somebody cuts you off. You dislike that, so you put your thumb down and the driver in front of you then gets feedback on his action. But it’s different from Facebook, for example, not everyone can see it. It is a more personal way of communicating. These applications take away the anonymity, cars are no longer pieces of iron on the road, but real people with feelings and interests.”
The system Wang designed is full of technological gadgets, it uses a transparent screen on the windscreen that projects information of a smart phone, like the sticker on the other cars driving past. They are detected by a special periscope lens that goes over the smart phone. “Not everyone can see the stickers. Only people with shared interests are shown, that way it stays clear.” Wang indicates that the drivers aren’t bothered by the transparent screen on the windscreen, but it is distracting. “That’s something we’re working on for the next version.” The app is equipped with a motion gesture system to follow the movements of the driver. “This is less distracting than for example operating a navigation system while driving.”
Wang also wants to make maximum use of the resources already available in the car. “More and more cars these days are equipped with Wifi and other sensors that collect data. That is only becoming more important in the development of the industry. In the long run, all these systems should standard be built in. There also needs to come a standard protocol so that all cars can communicate with each other, Audi’s with Fords and Fords with BMW’s and so on. Not only Audi’s with Audi’s. Such a protocol is still missing.”
The project of Wang is still in the research phase, but he is hoping that it will be taken over by a company. “I want to contribute to an increasing connectivity in the automotive industry. The traditional industry is working on building cars and saving as much money as possible. But the focus should be on the new technology and connectivity within the automotive industry. There are still many fish in the sea. Take for example Tesla, they are not at all worried about the costs. It is a different way of thinking, they try out new technology. They are developing with the users in mind. If the whole industry follows this example, then cars that drive independently and communicate with each other and infrastructure will soon become reality. But it’s not very realistic, I think it will still take ten years for it to come this far.”
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