General Motors announced a new and extremely affordable forward-collision alert system that will launch in the 2012 GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox. Unlike most current alternatives that rely on pricey radar arrays, this $295 GM option is the first to use a single high-resolution digital camera coupled with state-of-the-art image processing algorithms to provide a driver with visual and audio warnings about a potential front-end collision or an unsignalled lane departure. "Digital image sensors are used in just about everything from cameras to mobile phones to computers and this is making them a more-affordable alternative for use in vehicles," said Raymond Kiefer, General Motors Technical Fellow for crash avoidance systems.

Operational at speeds above 25 mph, the Terrain's forward crash alert system display includes green "vehicle ahead" and "lanes detected" icons, flashing red "forward collision alert" as well as warning chimes that caution if a driver is following too closely. Images from the camera -- which is mounted in the windshield just forward of the rearview mirror and provides four separate exposures to compensate for differing lighting and visibility conditions -- are assessed about 14 times per second to ascertain the location of a vehicle ahead and the potential for an impact. The software also integrates data on speed, directional changes and accelerator/brake applications to determine how and when to alert the driver. Should it determine that a collision is imminent; the system also pre-charges the brakes.

The unsignalled lane-change function is designed to go active at speeds above 35 mph. At that point, the lane icon will turn green to indicate markings have been detected. When it senses the vehicle is moving out of lane without a proper signal indication, the icon switches to flashing amber and it emits a series of warning beeps.

"GM is committed to providing protection before, during and after a crash, but the best scenario is to avoid a collision in the first place, and this technology is designed to assist drivers for that purpose," said Gay Kent, GM executive director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness. Although offering no specific timetable, a GM source told KBB.com that the new forward crash-avoidance system will be made available on other products in the automaker's divisional lineups.

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