Optical cruise control

11 July 2005

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The upcoming new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will offer an updated Distronic Plus cruise control system that works even in stop-start traffic, apparently. It uses dual 24GHz and 77GHz radar systems to detect the car in front, and to maintain contact with that vehicle.
Not to be outdone by the Germans, Japanese boffins have dreamed up an alternative approach using passive optical sensing of the car in front.
Celoxica, Calsonic Kansei and researchers at Keio University today unveiled their system, which uses licence-plate recognition to calculate the distance and position of other vehicles.
Heavy-duty geeks will be interested to know that, to reduce power consumption and packaging problems and to speed up recognition, the experimental system is based on field-programmable gate arrays, rather than a central processor.
It could prove cheaper than the sophisticated radar alternative. However, unlike the Mercedes system, it probably won't help if, say, a crate falls off the back of the lorry in front of you.

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