- Special Pages
By Isabel Ovalle
More than 88,000 new vehicles were registered in Qatar last year. Consequently, the roads are more crowded than ever and traffic congestion is a daily and unavoidable nuisance. However, that feeling one gets when stuck in a traffic jam could become a thing of the past thanks to a new invention: the Traffic Jam Assistant.
Designed by Bosch, the software can guide vehicles through highway traffic jams. However, desperate drivers will have to wait some time, given that the system is set to start production in 2014.
The Bosch Traffic Jam Assistant will brake, accelerate and steer autonomously at speeds up to 50 kilometres per hour. It is designed to operate in most stop-and-go traffic situations, which are common in Doha. Although drivers remain responsible for driving, they can limit themselves to monitoring the actions of the Traffic Jam Assistant, explained Guido Gring, Vice President of Bosch Automotive Aftermarket, Middle East and Africa.
The function utilises Bosch’s Electronic Stability Program, radar and video signals as well as the electromechanical steering, while high-performance software calculates the appropriate driving instructions for safer and less stressful driving.
“In a further development step, an automatic lane changing function will use a rear-mounted radar sensor that detects fast approaching vehicles, and a navigation map operating via a mobile network connection will keep drivers informed of roadwork sites and local speed restrictions,” said Gring.
The Bosch official said the German company was already supplying high-performance traffic assistance systems that help drivers in Doha reach their destinations safely and comfortably, including systems that control speed and the distance between vehicles, and GPS software that warns drivers of traffic jams.
“The Traffic Jam Assistant is an expansion of existing systems, and is being developed first and foremost to help drivers arrive more relaxed at their desired destination, thereby saving them from the associated stress that so often comes with being caught in a tailback,” added Gring.
“Imagine you are stuck in a traffic jam on one of Doha’s busiest roads, on your daily commute home from work, with at least another hour on the tarmac separating you from the comfort of your couch and family, and thinking to yourself: I wish my car could drive me home,” he said, adding, “that wish will soon come true.
The Assistant is in its final testing phase and is expected to enter production in 2014. In the following years, the feature will be enhanced to operate at faster speeds and in more complex driving conditions. Eventually, the Traffic Jam Assistant will serve as a highway pilot, making fully autonomous driving on highways a reality.
The pricing is yet to be finalised, but Gring expects that once production begins and some economies of scale are achieved, the manufacturing cost will come down, which in turn will drive down the price.
Initially, Bosch aims to work with its existing car manufacturing partners to install the Traffic Jam Assistant in their vehicles. “We’ll work closely with them to accommodate their technical requirements to implement the device,” said Gring.
The system could also be useful in public transport. “If they are willing to implement the device in their vehicles, we will be happy to provide any assistance needed,” he said.
This system could be a potential solution for stressed commuters who face tension and rage on Qatar’s roads. The American Psychological Association recently concluded in a study on road rage that even typically calm, reasonable people can turn into warriors behind the wheel. The study revealed that “when provoked, they yell obscenities, wildly gesture, honk and swerve in and out of traffic and endanger their lives and others.”
The same study, informed Bosch, suggested that in a road rage state of mind, drivers engage in hostile, aggressive thinking, take more risks on the road, get angry faster, behave more aggressively, have more accidents and experience more anxiety and impulsiveness.
For Gring, “the Traffic Jam Assistant will reduce the factors provoking road rage, thus contributing significantly to avoiding dangers on the road and accidents. By also remaining stress-free on Middle East roads, people can go about their daily lives with ease.”