6D-Vision – Recognizing danger faster than humans

(f.l.t.r) Dr. rer. nat. Stefan Gehrig, Dr.-Ing. Uwe Franke, Dr.-Ing. Clemens Rabe

Dr.-Ing. Uwe Franke (Spokesperson)
Dr. rer. nat. Stefan Gehrig
Dr.-Ing. Clemens Rabe

Daimler AG, Stuttgart

The number of road fatalities has been declining in Germany for decades. Yet many people are still killed on the road – and every death is one too many. How can driving be made even safer in the future?

Dr. Uwe Franke, Dr. Stefan Gehrig, and Dr. Clemens Rabe are convinced: intelligent driver assistance systems can dramatically reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on the road. They have developed a technology that provides entirely new ways of assisting drivers. It can be used to recognize dangers, and many accidents can be avoided by the vehicle’s rapid response. Uwe Franke heads the “Image Recognition” Department at Daimler Research and Advanced Engineering in Sindelfingen to which Stefan Gehrig and Clemens Rabe also belong.

To be able to support the driver in complex traffic situations, the vehicle’s artificial senses must reliably recognize what’s happening around it. And the electronic assistant must be able to “sense” how other road users will continue to respond – for example, whether another car will collide with the driver’s vehicle or a child at play will run into the road. Previous systems were not able to grasp many critical situations and took too long to analyze measurements and data and still react fast enough.

The nominated scientists at Daimler succeeded in vastly improving the capabilities of the technical danger recognition system. They modeled their system on the function of the human eye and brain whose abilities they were even able to surpass. The new “6D vision” technology succeeds in identifying children at play at the side of the road in less than 0.2 seconds – a human being takes more than twice as long. To achieve this remarkable feat, a stereo camera records three dimensional images in rapid succession of the surroundings in front and next to the vehicle. An algorithm developed just for this purpose analyzes the images virtually instantaneously. By comparing the sequence of images, the system also recognizes whether and how fast objects such as cyclists, pedestrians, or cars are moving. It even works very reliably in inclement weather and at twilight.

Daimler will soon be including 6D vision systems in the Mercedes vehicles series – as the basis for innovative assistance systems that recognize pedestrians, assist drivers as they pass through blind crossings or navigate narrow highway construction sites. The research team from Sindelfingen hopes that their innovations will find widespread acceptance in the automotive industry – so that as many road users as possible are provided with an additional safety feature. In attempt to ensure that this is the case, the company plans to make the technology available to other manufacturers. 6D vision has the potential to revolutionize electronic vision not only in cars, but also in service robots that act independently. These robots are designed to serve as household helpers or to assist in caring for the infirm. To do so, they must be able to monitor their surroundings and to recognize where and how their charge moves around. The six-dimensional look at the world provided by automotive research makes it possible.