All of us are constantly moving about. We drive our cars to work, to go shopping, to visit friends, and to go on vacation. Our children take the bus to school. We depend on delivery vehicles to bring frozen foods, clothes, or furniture to our homes. Nowadays, most freight is transported by vehicles on streets and highways. In a nutshell: we take our mobility for granted. We seldom realize to what extent this mobility forms the basis of our prosperity.
Conversely, the greater our prosperity, the more traffic is generated. The consequences of increased traffic are usually perceived negatively: when we wait in morning and evening traffic jams; when an important city street is blocked again due to construction; when we hear of traffic accidents or are involved ourselves. Although the number of traffic accident victims has been steadily decreasing, the statistics still tell a sad story: in the year 2000, over 510,000 persons were injured and over 7,500 lost their lives in traffic accidents in Germany. Nine out of ten accidents were caused by human error and might have been prevented.
Congestion taxes not only our nerves, but also our resources: 33 million liters of wasted fuel, 13 million hours of delay every day in Germany. This is hard cash: independent studies have estimated the losses to the German economy alone due to congestion at 250 million euros per day.
Hence, we urgently need solutions that will make traffic safer and more efficient. The development and investigation of such solutions is the goal of the research initiative INVENT. In the future, new technologies will help to avoid accidents and reduce congestion. By a fusion of traffic, information, and communication technologies, new assistance systems will emerge, capable of providing continuous support to drivers, determining the best route, and, in critical situations, even saving lives. Cars will inter-communicate automatically and warn one another of dangerous incidents or conditions ahead. Results of congestion research will allow traffic management systems to dissolve or even entirely prevent congestion. In order to implement the intelligent cars and the intelligent traffic networks of the future as soon as possible, 23 companies and institutions including automobile manufacturers and suppliers, electronics, telecommunications and information technology companies, logistics service providers, software developers, and research institutes, are working together hand in hand. The cooperation is organized into three projects focusing on safety, traffic management, and logistics. These projects include eight component projects.