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Talking traffic lights, environment-aware vehicles in the UR:BAN project By Christoph Hammerschmidt If trafic lights could speak, which language would be used to make sure that vehicles could understand them? An industry consortium of 31 companies, with automotive supplier Continental and aerospace research centre Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) among them is currently trying to find a solution. The project UR:BAN, designed to develop solutions for safe and efficient urban traffic, provided first insights into demonstration vehicles, simulators, and demo objects at the occasion of the project’s half-time event. The goal of the project is to develop solutions that provide context-sensitive, predictive and individual support to drivers of passenger cars and commercial vehicles in city traffic. Within this context, DLR is working on a specific aspect of car2x communications. The goal is to devise an instruction format that enables traffic lights to communicate with the cars regardless of make, type or manufacturer. For instance, future traffic lights can pass on information to the cars in the environment; the information could be generated by a ‘smart guiding pylone’ which could be placed by the police in the case of an accident or a construction site. This smart guiding pylone would connect wirelessly to the traffic light to inform them about the traffic obstruction. The traffic light in turn would send the message to the vehicles in the vicinity, alerting them about the situation and thus contributing to prevent accidents and, if applicable, recommending a deviation. Another data type contains the remaining time of the red or green phase. Drivers can use this information, to reduce or increase their speed accordingly - in future systems, this adjustment could be done automatically. In complex urban traffic situations, it can be particularly challenging to recognise hazards and react accordingly. For this reason, the UR:BAN project covers the aspect of ‘cognitive assistance’. In this segment, Continental and others are developing powerful driver assistance systems capable of taking control over lateral and longitudinal movements of the cars. This sub-project contains four functions - driver assistance systems for narrow passages, for passages with contraflow, lane change assist, and situation-aware speed recommendation with haptic feedback. The contraflow traffic assistance system, for instance, determines if the lane ahead of the vehicle is wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass. If the sensors determine that the space is not sufficient it issues a warning sound at the dashboard. “These functions support an even traffic flow which improves the fuel efficiency and reduces the environmental burden in the dense urban traffic. In addition, they are a contribution to help even unsafe road users to find their way through urban traffic safely”, says Stefan Lueke, manager of the subproject. Key for these assistance functions is the reliable identification of other active and passive traffic participants as well as of further relevant objects - which includes the rather complex environment with traffic signs, traffic lights and parking vehicles. Accordingly, these assistance systems are equipped with a rather sophisticated selection of sensors. Four short range radar sensors at the corners of the vehicles, a forward-looking long distance radar sensor and a stereo video camera recognise the surroundings in 360. The situation-aware speed recommendation assist involves a haptic feedback to the driver through the Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP) as well as the engine management. Japan’s chip fabs turn to growing lettuce By Peter Clarke Two of Japan ’s chip companies have decided to grow lettuce and other vegetables in idle semiconductor clean rooms using specialized lighting to replace sunlight. The clean room environment is dust-free and germ-free, as it would be for the production of integrated circuits. As a result no pesticide is used and the lettuce stays fresher for longer. Fujitsu Semiconductor and Toshiba Corp have both started to grow greens and believe the tightly-controlled conditions produce superior plants that can be tuned in terms of trace elements and therefore for taste or for specialized diets to meet health-care needs. Fujitsu has begun selling low-potassium lettuce, grown in a clean room at its semiconductor plant in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. Fukishima is the region that experienced a nuclear reactor meltdown on March 11, 2011. Toshiba has announced a similar initiative Artist’s impression of Toshiba cleanroom vegetable facility. Source: Toshiba. and has begun construction of vegetable cleanroom at an idle semiconductor facility in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture. Toshiba plans to start shipping lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and other vegetables in the summer The vegetable facility will be equipped with closed growing systems that integrate lighting with a wavelength optimized for vegetable growth; air-conditioning systems that maintain constant temperature and moisture level and the production management system is based on that used for semiconductor device production. As well as making sales to supermarkets Toshiba expects to offer functional vegetables tuned to be rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, achieved by careful control of the growth environment. Fujitsu is hoping to post annual revenues of 400 million yen (about $4 million) from the Kirei Yasai line in the year ending March 2017 while Toshiba is estimating annual sales of about 300 million yen. However, Toshiba is also considering construction of a purpose-built, mega-veggie-fab and creating a business around the sale of equipment and systems for vegetable fabs in its current financial year. 12 Electronic Engineering Times Europe June 2014 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE JUN 2014
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