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1. WO2020109887 - INTEGRATED ACTIVE SAFETY SYSTEM FOR INDIVIDUALS SUBJECTED TO A RISK OF ROAD ACCIDENT

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

[ EN ]
"Integrated active safety system for individuals subjected to a risk of road accident"

Field of the invention

The present invention generally regards road safety, and in particular it regards an integrated active safety system for individuals subjected to a risk of road accidents, namely drivers of muscular or electrical traction and the like vehicle.

State of the prior art

Documents US-10051909 and WO-2016/18324 reveal protective helmets, called "smart helmets" or "electronic helmets", equipped with a front video camera, a rear video camera and a processing self-powered unit connected to such video cameras and configured to provide safety functions based on the images captured by the video cameras.

Though commendable, the active safety actuated by safety systems thus made is not entirely effective in particular as concerns the risk of rear-end collision i.e. the user being hit from the rear by the vehicle behind .

Document US9247779 describes a helmet for motorcyclists equipped with a plurality of electronic components installed in special housings obtained in a shell inside or outside the helmet. The integration of such devices in the helmet is expensive, complex and requires a specific design of the structure of the helmet .

Document US2013219592 reveals a method for alerting a skier on a potential impact from the rear using a radar integrated in a helmet and an acoustical warning device. Neither further safety sensors nor video cameras are provided for.

Document US2014071280 regards a safety system comprising a software for processing the data recorded by video cameras and microphones installed in different positions on a vehicle and/or on a helmet. Even in this case, providing electrical connections between the plurality of hardware integrated on the vehicle and/or on the helmet is complex and expensive.

Document US2017000417 reveals a safety helmet provided with sensors for measuring the biometric data of the user. Safety systems for reducing the risk of a road accident for the user are not provided for.

Document US2017143068 regards a helmet provided with a rear video camera integrated in the body of the helmet and with a removable lateral bracket and electrically connected to the rear video camera. Installed on such bracket is a front video camera, an optoelectronic device for displaying the images of the rear video camera, other various sensors and a power supply battery. The bracket can be removed from the helmet after disconnecting the connection with the rear video camera with the aim of facilitating the charging of the power supply battery. Even in this case, the assembly of the electronic part of the helmet is complex and expensive especially as regards the electrical connections between the removable bracket and the fixed video camera. Furthermore, even in this case, the helmet must be purposely provided with a housing for the rear video camera.

Summary of the invention

The object of the present invention is to provide an integrated active safety system of the type defined at the beginning, not necessarily though preferably incorporated in a helmet for cyclists as well as for motorcyclists, suitable to overcome the problems outlined above and even such to guarantee a considerably improved protection to the user thereof against the risk of accidents.

According to the invention, this object is achieved, mainly and as outlined in claim 1, thanks to the fact that the safety system consists of a pre assembled unit permanently applied or configured to be permanently applied to the outside a helmet, especially for cyclists.

Thanks to this solution idea, the safety system pre-assembled according to the invention can be installed easily and relatively cost-effectively both during the manufacturing of the helmet along the production line as well as to previously existing helmets, making it available as a "retrofit" accessory. Furthermore, a further advantage of the invention lies in the fact that the components and the relative pre assembled connections on a support, for example in form of strip or sheet, can be easily permanently fixed to the helmet also ensuring the stability of the images recorded by the video cameras .

As will be clearer from the description that follows, the rear radar, with which the safety system according to the invention is provided, is capable of detecting the vehicles approaching the user of the system for example at a speed greater than a predetermined threshold value or a distance smaller than a pre-set entity, and thus warning both the user with an acoustic signal as well as the driver of the vehicle behind him with a light signal emitted by the system.

According to a first optional characteristic of the invention, the safety system may include a front video camera and a rear video camera.

Further optional characteristics of the safety system according to the invention can consist in the presence of an environmental directional microphone operatively connected to the electronic unit with the aim of further implementing the safety functions relating with the risk of the user being hit from the rear .

As will be clearer hereinafter, the ambient noise detected by the microphone can allow the electronic unit for example to classify the type of vehicle approaching the user of the system from the rear, as a useful complement to the detections carried out by the rear radar.

According to further optional characteristics of the invention, the system may also include an inertial platform operatively connected to the electronic unit with the aim of identifying a possible accident situation identified by a sudden stop of the user of the system, following a fall thereof for example.

Further optional characteristics of the safety system according to the invention may consist in the presence of ambient or biometric sensors also operatively connected to the electronic unit for monitoring the physical conditions of the user, a GPS tracker and a wi-fi and/or Bluetooth interface for the connection of the electronic unit to a display and recording device such as a cellular phone or a tablet . Such display device may serve a continuous function of a rear-view mirror through the images provided by the rear video camera.

Further functions that can be optionally provided by the safety system according to the invention for example provide for an emergency call through a cellular phone in dangerous situations, video/audio recordings so as to provide a "black box" in case of an accident, the emission of constant and/or variable light signals so as to make the user clearly visible, the measurement of the biometric parameters of the user, the earphone and/or intercom emulation and the management of the self-powering consumption.

Brief description of the drawings

The invention will now be described in detail with reference to an embodiment provided by way of non limiting example in the attached drawings, wherein:

- figure 1 is a block diagram schematically showing the different components of the integrated active safety system according to the invention,

- figure 2 is a schematic perspective view of a possible embodiment of the system, seen frontally,

- figure 3 is a dorsal perspective view of the system of figure 2, and

- figure 4 is a top plan schematic view of the system applied on a protective helmet for cyclists.

Detailed description of the invention

Initially referring to the block diagram of figure 1, the integrated active safety system according to the invention essentially comprises a control unit, a sensor unit and an actuator unit .

The control unit consists of a microprocessor-equipped unit 1 with relative operating system, power-supplied by a power supply module 2 for example consisting of one or more lithium batteries, with a battery charger 3 of the conventional type associated thereto .

The control unit includes a rear radar module 4 consisting of a radar antenna applied to the rear part of the system, with reference to the condition of use thereof by the user. Thus, should the system be applied to a helmet for cyclists, the radar 4 is positioned in the dorsal area of the helmet .

The radar 4 is provided - in a per se known manner - with a logical unit 5, connected thereto by means of an amplifier and a band-pass filter 6, connected to the microprocessor 1.

The sensor unit preferably comprises:

- a front video camera 7, for example with a 1920xl080pl5 resolution,

- a rear video camera 8 for example with a 1920xl080p30 resolution,

- a video processor 9 connected to the two video cameras 7, 8, in turn connected to the microprocessor 1 and provided with a USD storage interface ("Black Box") 10,

- an environmental directional microphone 11,

- an inertial platform 13 with nine axes (accelerometer/gyroscope/magnetometer) ,

- an ambient and biometric detector unit

(temperature, humidity, pressure etc.) 14.

The group of actuators, controlled by the microprocessor 1 in response to signals coming from the sensors, comprises:

- an active sound emitter (beeper) 15, i.e. designed to warn the user of any hazardous situation,

- one or more passive light emitters 16, i.e. designed to signal to third parties about the presence of the user of the system, namely, provided for is a high luminosity led applied to the rear area of the system, in proximity of the radar 4 and of the rear video camera 8,

- a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection interface 12. The Wi-Fi connection can be used for the real time sending of video streaming from the video cameras 7 and 8 and for receiving geolocation information. The Bluetooth connection allows to emulate the earphone and intercom functions. Through such connection, the system is capable of communicating with an external display, typically a cellular phone or a tablet given to the user of the system according to the invention.

Figures 2 and 3 schematically exemplify a possible active structural configuration according to the invention, in particular referring to the application thereof to a helmet for cyclists schematically indicated with H in figure 4.

According to the distinctive characteristic of the invention, the active safety system consists in a unit pre-assembled on a support band 17 in form of a strip or sheet, rigid but possibly also flexible or elastic at least in the central part thereof so as to adapt to the curvature of the helmet and be fixed on the top part of the helmet. Such support band 17, bearing the microprocessor 1 with the batteries 2 and the sensors described previously, carries - at the front part - the front video camera 7 and - at the rear part - the radar 4, the rear video camera 8, the environmental directional microphone 11 and the light emitter 16. The support band 17 thus pre-assembled is applied or configured to be applied and fixed permanently on the upper surface of the cap of the helmet H, both when it is expressly configured to receive it and in case of a previously existing helmet which may thus be equipped with a system according to the invention as "retrofit".

In the following description of the operating logics of the active safety system according to the invention, reference will be made to the specific application thereof to a helmet for cyclists, though stressing the point that such application is purely by way of exemplifying and non-limiting purposes.

The set of sensors managed by the microprocessor 1 is capable of having cognition of the environment surrounding the cyclist so as to protect/inform him/her on the significant/hazardous events, for example the approaching of vehicles from behind at a more or less high speed.

The system operates autonomously as concerns interpreting data (sound, radar trace, video) collected by the sensors, stores it in a USD ("Black Box") and provides :

1. to the cyclist, the activation of a series of actuators (audio, light) for simple acoustic information (beeper) or complex acoustic information (voice synthesiser) to warn the cyclist, for example, of the possible hazardousness of the approaching vehicles ;

2. to the driver of the vehicle approaching from behind, light information through a high luminosity red rear led with a variable blinking frequency for example as a function of the difference of relative speed with respect to the cyclist .

The system conveniently uses a dedicated application on smartphone or tablet as a graphic user interface for providing to the cyclist:

1. the "rear-view mirror" functionality integrated with the data of the sensors, processed previously .

2. The possibility of controlling - during the trip - the use configuration of the sensors and relative actuators as a function of the pre-selected conditions and places of use of the trip.

Furthermore, the system can operate with a wefoApp on PC/Tablet as graphic user interface which allows the cyclist to programme a use configuration of the helmet before beginning the trip with the aim of optimising/reducing subsequent modifications .

The "rear-view mirror" and "emergency calls" functions, to be addressed further in detail hereinafter, require the use of a smartphone or tablet by the cyclist, for example applied on the handlebar of the bicycle, respectively for the display of the events occurring from the rear and for the geolocation of the possible accident and the possible dispatch of an emergency call.

For the management of the absorptions and the duration of the battery, the microprocessor 1 can enable/disable some sensors preventing or limiting some functionalities .

Described below are some of the possible operative functionalities actuated by the safety system according to the invention.

Reduction of the risk of collision and being hit: the rear radar 4 is capable of detecting vehicles approaching at a speed greater than the defined limit, warning the cyclist with an acoustic signal (beeper or voice signal) and the driver of the approaching vehicle with a light signal (rear LED) .

The input audio of the rear directional microphone 11 is a compendium useful to the "Rear Collision Warning", for example also at distances exceeding the range of the radar.

Rear-view mirror.

The smartphone given to the user is used for displaying the video streaming coming from the rear video camera 8, to emulate the function of the rear view mirror.

Identification and classification of the vehicles that follow:

The microprocessor 1 identifies the approaching vehicles in two different ways:

1) by analysing the diversified audio marking for heavy duty means, cars, motorcycles, always possible even under situations of poor visibility,

2) by analysing the video image in particular when the rear-view mirror function is active (day time) .

State of alarm

Faced with a sudden acceleration-deceleration event, detected by the inertial platform 13 and classified as a possible accident, the system enters into a crash alert in which:

1. it activates the sound alarms (beeper) and visual alarms (rear LED) for identifying the cyclist;

2. it requests the sending of an emergency call which, if not intentionally inhibited by the cyclist, provides for sending to a predefined list numbers a voice message or text message with indication of time and place (geolocated) of the event.

The emergency call with geolocation of the accident can be implemented by the application on smartphone .

Black box

The Black Box functionality relates to recording the audio and video of the front and rear cameras 7, 8 besides the data regarding the other sensors such as:

1. distance and speed of the approaching means (radar 4)

2. Sudden accelerations/decelerations (inertial platform 13)

3. "Hazardous" noises, hard braking or accident (audio input)

The "Black Box" functionality cloud connected in real time requires a connection to the smartphone for the immediate sending of the essential information in case of an accident on a predefined cloud server.

Audio/video recordings

Front video camera 7 and microphone enable the system to carry out audio/video recording allowing the cyclist not to interrupt or alter the athletic performance .

Measuring biometric parameters

Measuring the temperature and humidity in the helmet can be correlated to the cyclist's loss of body fluids and thus to the performance capacity thereof.

Bluetooth earphone

Managing phone calls through the smartphone given to the cyclist which - as mentioned - is an integral part of the system, in that it is the visor for the "rear-view mirror".

Intercom

When the earphone function is not in use, the audio interface can be used in intercom mode if connected to another helmet using the same technology.

The intercom communication will occur on a Bluetooth channel connected in a network between the components of a group of cyclists.

Rear radar

The control logic of the rear radar 4, alongside the detections carried out by the environmental directional microphone 11, can directly implement the hazardousness classification algorithm as a "Rear Collision Warning" function for a possible standalone operation if required by the conditions.

It is associated to a neural network and it is capable of also contributing to the identification and classification of the vehicles.

It is suitable that the radar 4 be capable of ensuring that the detection distance of a vehicle reaches 50 metres under normal conditions of use (absence of fog, rain, snow, etc.)/ so as to be able to emit the warning regarding the approaching of vehicles within 30 metres at a speed greater than 30 km/h.

The distance and the speed can be configurable.

Light warning for third parties

The rear led 16 should warn the driver of the following vehicle of the presence of the cyclist and of the hazard, in terms of speed and relative approaching distance, with a progressively intense and frequent blinking .

Control of the power supply batteries

The duration of the battery 2 obviously depends on how the system is used. In situations of potential hazard, such as poor lighting and/or high-speed roads, the method of use will be continuous with the ensuing energy consumption.

Under full safety conditions, the system may be configured in energy saving mode or even switched to stand-by position.

Obviously, without prejudice to the principle of the invention, the construction details and the embodiments may widely vary with respect to what has been described and illustrated, without departing from the scope of protection of the present invention as defined in the claims that follow.