Nowadays it is difficult to find new models that do not include some sort of driver assistance system. Manufacturers are emphasizing the development of safety equipment with an aim to reducing the number of accidents caused by driver distraction and to reduce the seriousness of such accidents.
The commonplace driver assistance systems we have now are precursors of what will eventually become fully automated driving by the year 2025. However, we won't have to wait that long to be able to drive with a special auto-pilot mode for freeways (limited-access highways), a system that is expected by the year 2020.
This automated driving is being introduced into the marked gradually so that drivers can get used to this way of traveling in a car and can gradually gain confidence in it. The basic functionality is found in driver assistance systems that are more and more capable of providing semi-automatic driving by, for example, helping the driver to change lanes or stay in a lane, to brake when approaching an obstacle or pedestrian, or adaptive cruise control that helps the driver to maintain a certain speed when driving along a freeway.
And this is the context where the road sign detection system comes into play, thanks to the use of video cameras inside the vehicles. Signs such as those prohibiting certain maneuvers, speed limit signs and passing indicators are captured by these video cameras and shown on the car's dashboard.
This system appeared for the first time in a BMW model in the year 2008. At first it detected only speed limit signs, but it has developed a great deal in terms of precision, quality, night recognition, and the number of different signs identified; there are even models that show these signs on the windshield at the driver's eye level using the head-up display system.
The purpose of this technology is to help improve the driver's safety on the road, especially when he or she is tired or has failed to notice signs and signals. At one time or another, hasn't every driver wondered what the speed limit was? This happens because signage can vary from one section of highway to the next, creating confusion and even distracting the driver.
Good signs on streets and highways is vital for safety, since in addition to regulating traffic, it informs the driver of the condition of the roads. This is why it is such a great step for road safety to have a system that is capable of detecting and recognizing signs automatically and in real time on the basis of images captured from a moving vehicle.
The current challenge is to combine this sign detection system with other driver assistance systems, in order to offer greater comfort and safety to drivers, all with the same final objective: to achieve fully automated driving and zero accidents on our streets and roads.