Imagine driving and being warned when you're too close to the edge of the road.

That's exactly what space technology developed by German researchers can do, and it could be in Northland trucks in the next year.

Researchers from the German Aerospace Agency have been in Whangarei with the Intelligent Positioning System, which has been designed to navigate the rover on Mars.

Described as a location system "on steroids", unlike GPS - which gives you an idea of where you are - IPS will know exactly where you are on the road.

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The technology could be used for ''multiple things'', Northland Innovation Centre chief executive Martin Knoche said.

''You can use it for road safety so you can keep yourself away from the edge of the road, you can keep yourself away from the other side of the road."

Northland Innovation Centre chief executive Martin Knoche (left) with Dr Hongmou Zhang and Dr Sergey Zuev from the German Aerospace Agency. Photo/John Stone
Northland Innovation Centre chief executive Martin Knoche (left) with Dr Hongmou Zhang and Dr Sergey Zuev from the German Aerospace Agency. Photo/John Stone

There are two parts to IPS: the 3D mapping of the roads, and then putting the system in trucks to locate the driver.

To map the roads, Dr Sergey Zuev and Dr Hongmou Zhang, from the German Aerospace Agency, have been driving around with Mr Knoche in a car with a device, which looks a bit like ET, on top.

The device has two cameras inside and a system which measures the surface of the road, picking up every little dent and slope.

During their visit last week they mapped Otaika Valley Rd, Wright Rd, and Marsden City, and the road area around the Town Basin.

The next step will be to put those maps to use by putting the system in trucks to locate the driver. This could happen in the next year.

Mr Knoche said there would be a tablet in the truck which would show the map, similar to using Google maps, except in 3D.

Because IPS locates the exact position of the driver on the road it can be used in conjunction with technology called lane departure, which is already in most trucks and keeps them in within their lanes, to not only alert the driver when they're too close to the edge of the road but automatically correct them.

Mr Knoche said this was part of NIC's long term project to use technology to improve the safety of Northland roads.

"A lot of truck rollovers are caused when the back wheels go off the edge of the road. We're hoping this technology will reduce the amount of truck accidents on roads. It's not about replacing the driver in cab, it's about giving them more information."

Dr Zuev said this was the first time IPS had been used outside Germany and, although they are yet to use IPS on Mars, they know it will be easier than navigating Whangarei roads.

"It's been very good but we have had a lot of surprises here because of weather.

"The conditions on Mars are straightforward. You don't have rain, you don't have dust," he said.