Conceptually, a Driver Support System (DSS) for road vehicles should behave like a cooperative human copilot. A DSS should continuously monitor the driver, the vehicle, and its environment in order to inform the driver in time about upcoming major decisions regarding navigation and potentially risky traffic situations. A DSS should relieve the driver of distracting routine activities like tracking the vehicle's position for navigation purposes and warn him about impending threads. In principle, the DSS should be able to drive automatically - given a suitable situation like stop-and-go traffic on a straight, intersection-free, unidirectional road - if so desired by the human driver, but still under his final responsibility.
Significant advances have been realized - for example during the European EUREKA project PROMETHEUS (PROgraMme for a European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety, 1986 - 1994) - towards turning qualitative ideas like the ones mentioned in the introductory paragraph into engineering specifications for the design and realization of such a DSS. Similar experiences have been accumulated, too, in the course of research programs which have been initiated since then in Japan and in the USA, for example the Intelligent Vehicles Highway System (IVHS). Although these broad research programs do not concentrate on Computer Vision (CV) in the context of road vehicle surveillance, guidance and safety, the technology-driven exponential rise of computing power at roughly constant - if not decreasing - cost, power, and space consumption fuels the exploration of CV in this context.