Drive to deliver safer travels
A HONG KONG RESEARCH INSTITUTE CREATES A POWERFUL ROAD SAFETY DEVICE TO AVOID VEHICLE COLLISIONS
An exciting application of a road safety technology that caters to local road conditions is set to have a significant impact on reducing vehicle crashes and pedestrian accidents. The Advanced Driver Assistance System, or ADAS, helps monitor the vehicle’s position on the road and in relation to other cars — warning drivers if they have drifted into another lane, have another vehicle in a blind spot or are at risk of a forward collision.
The system involves a network of tiny cameras placed around the vehicle, feeding back information to a processing and recording unit inserted beneath a seat.
ADAS has been developed by the Hong Kong-based Automotive Parts and Accessory Systems Research and Development Centre (APAS), a research body that is affiliated with the Hong Kong Productivity Council.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding safety systems and ADAS can support the driver in performing driving tasks,” says Lawrence Poon Chi-kin, principal consultant at the business development and commercialization section of APAS.
“As a result, the use of these systems may increase traffic safety, traffic efficiency and also the sustainability of the vehicle.”
A trial project conducted at the Hong Kong International Airport has produced satisfactory results and there is a growing test fleet of vehicles from government departments — now 16 — that have the system installed.
Poon says the technology took two years to develop because of the complexity involved in developing an algorithm to process the images and to ensure total safety during a rigorous testing phase.
The technology is ingenious, which it has to be, since it must work in all lighting conditions, in the heat and wet weather, cope with high speeds and with vibration.
“Safety features are designed to avoid collisions and accidents by utilizing technologies based on vision that alert the driver to potential problems,” he says.
The technology behind the system converts digital images into scaledback edge maps and binary images. Poon says the edge maps help to determine distances and relationships in space, while the binary images are simple representations of objects. The image processing technology has other possible applications, with the vehicle detection technique capable of being deployed in a car park surveillance system.
Poon says the advanced driver assistance systems were poised to be a major growth area for automotive manufacturers and suppliers as consumers demand safer cars and governments emphasise safety features.
“For the car of the future, this intelligent vehicle system will improve safety aspects of the vehicle and make the car more attractive to buy and to use,” he says.
That means an organization such as APAS is well-placed to capitalize on that growth, despite the fact that Hong Kong doesn’t have an automotive industry. APAS plans to continue its hard work in building its capabilities and developing technology for key components in the automotive industry.
“We truly believe that through our effort, we’ll bring competitive technology to our customers and make long-term, substantial contributions to the local community,” says Poon.
ADAS is one of the more than 25,000 technologies listed on the Asia IP Exchange (AsiaIPEX), an intellectual property exchange platform developed by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in response to Hong Kong’s significance as a global marketplace for IP trading.
“By listing on the AsiaIPEX platform, our valuable IPs can bring more trading opportunities to the industry as it can reach out to more countries and more diverse markets,” Poon says.
One market with potential is the Chinese mainland. The new safety system is aimed at tapping into the huge opportunity presented by the rapid expansion of the Chinese mainland’s automotive market, which is now the world’s biggest.
It was the Hong Kong government’s planning goal to help local industries capture emerging opportunities that saw the establishment of APAS in 2006. The Hong Kong Productivity Council has since focused on fostering research and development.
In particular, APAS undertakes market-led research and development (R&D) programs as well as efforts to commercialize those results in collaboration with industry, universities and technology institutes.
APAS also provides testing facilities for product development and coordinates funding applications for projects in three areas: green transportation, smart mobility, and manufacturing and materials.
Poon says research and development was an important contributor to the economy.
“As the pace of technology is accelerating and newer technologies and processes are becoming important, R&D is becoming a major factor in the success of companies and economies in a globalized and competitive world,” he says.