Merging on the motorway or changing lanes: this may one day literally become an automatism for truck drivers. Jan Loof, a mechanical engineer at the Eindhoven University of Technology, has developed a system that can take over the steering and enable a vehicle to automatically merge in traffic. However, the driver will always exercise control of the steering wheel. Loof says that the first tests on the road show that drivers are at ease with it. Loof will be awarded a PhD on Monday 19 February for his research.
90% of all accidents result from human error. During his research, Loof developed an assistant that helps the truck driver to merge – a difficult maneuver – so that the risk of accidents can be reduced. The merge assistant moves the steering wheel by itself and enables the vehicle to change lanes automatically. The driver can always intervene, if necessary. “That is a very important condition in the driver’s acceptance of such an automatic assistant”, says Loof. “The system must never overrule the driver.”
In Loof’s system, steering is done very naturally, as you would do it yourself as a driver. “There are no constant, small steering corrections that you sometimes see with other systems”, says Loof. According to him, the first road tests with passenger cars showed that drivers feel comfortable. “They are actively supported, but keep the feeling of control.”