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Since when is Nissan or Infiniti a U.S. Company? :argue:


Nissan's Infiniti division this year will be the first U.S. company to offer lane departure warning systems, technology that could dramatically cut down on one of the leading causes of highway traffic accidents and could offset the growing concern that drivers have too many distractions from cell phones and entertainment systems.

The device, which warns the driver if the vehicle leaves a lane without engaging the turn signal, is part of a growing number of systems, supported by a mandate by the Department of Transportation project, expected to hit the market this decade aimed at helping or forcing drivers to perform better behind the wheel and avoid crashes.

The system, developed by Iteris Inc. uses a small camera mounted to the backside of the rearview mirror that tracks the white lines on the road. It is designed to work only at highway speeds above 45 miles per hour. If the vehicle changes lanes and the turn signal is not on, a lighted icon appears on the instrument panel and a loud beep signals the driver.

The Department of Transportation says 55 percent of fatal accidents are caused by unintended lane departure. In 2002, the most recent year of statistics available, there were more than six million vehicle crashes in the U.S., causing over 42,000 fatalities, nearly three million injuries and more than $230 million in property damage.

Driver distraction, inattention and drowsiness lead the causes of such accidents.

The Department of Transportation has supported development of the Iteris system through its "Intelligent Vehicle Initiative," a series of studies seeking improvements in technology, regulation and transportation infrastructure. A study examining lane departure and driver distraction will conclude this year. Most carmakers, including Ford, DaimlerChrysler and Honda are all looking at such lane departure warning systems, but they haven't announced launch plans yet.

Infiniti, as well as Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz on some models offer "adaptive cruise control" that automatically controls braking and acceleration to maintain a safe gap between the vehicle and the one ahead.

Other, more intrusive systems are in the works. Nissan, Ford and other manufacturers, for example, are even testing in-cabin cameras that monitor a driver's eye movement and position to help determine if the driver is attentive when an event like an unintended lane departure takes place. In such a case of lane departure, torque and brake pressure would be applied to the wheels to get the car back in the correct lane if, for example, the driver is dozing.

While the intent of all the new technology seems noble, scientists studying the effect on the driver say going slower is better. Some critics say in-vehicle multi-tasking on cell-phones, DVD players, voice-activated e-mail and Internet services are all distracting drivers from focusing on the job of driving a two-ton vehicle. -Jim Burt
 
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