ADAS: although it sounds like a disease, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the exact opposite is the case, as ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance) systems are there to help the driver: whenever and wherever help is needed.
Imagine: you get into your car and it safely takes you to a pre-defined destination ... without your taking an active part in the proceedings. Something that would have been dismissed as fiction or nonsense just a few years ago has developed into a very real trend, and is playing an increasingly important role in the automotive industry. Driver assistance systems (ADAS) are already providing solutions for practical day-to-day operation.
Whereas the media are busy examining all aspects of autonomous driving, presenting scenarios for the future and painting us a bright and shiny brave new world, very few people are actually giving any thought to the development of these new systems. Who guarantees the driver the necessary safety? How can these systems be validated? What steps can be taken to ensure that, as precursors of autonomous driving, ADAS systems will work in every country – not just on well laid out German highways, but also in chaotic megacities?
For many people it is still very difficult to imagine that, instead of having to drive themselves, they would hand over all responsibility to a number of different systems. Clear task for EDAG: to make sure that people's trust in these systems is justified. And that they will also work in difficult situations. No matter where or when.
Driver assistance systems should simplify or even automate driving. Driving situations can be electronically supported and decisions simplified, or even made for the driver. The best known aids are the emergency brake assistant, tyre pressure control system, adaptive cruise control (ACC), parking assistant (automatic parking), blind spot monitor, rear view camera, road sign identification, lane departure warning system, ….
The fact that these aids also deliver in practice what they promise in theory is a matter of validation - a test and subsequent assessment. In this respect, more and more OEM customers are putting their faith in EDAG's experts. ADAS systems are put through a series of rigorous tests from which possible improvements are derived.
A number of obstacles must be overcome before an ADAS system can be developed, including questions such as which country the system is to be used in, or which vehicle types it is to be integrated in. Another matter of importance when it comes to the market launch is compliance with standards. As we all know, every country has its own way of doing certain things.
One example of this is that the blind spot monitor is radar operated in the USA, whereas ultrasound is used in Germany. A technology with a similar degree of reliability, but which can be realised at a fraction of the price. Differences between countries do not, however, apply only to rules and regulations, but also to social values and norms. Adaptive cruise control illustrates this point perfectly. The ACC system is dependent on the way in which motorists drive in the different countries, and must therefore be adjusted accordingly. Experience has shown that drivers in the USA tend to brake and accelerate smoothly and slowly, whereas Germans brake and accelerate far more sharply. In this context, EDAG checks what tests are necessary, and then carries them out.
Drive – brake – drive – brake – it is hard to believe that, simple as it sounds, testing braking and acceleration cues is actually a demanding and cost-intensive practice. A brake robot is used to carry out this type of safety check. A complex procedure, and one for which the EDAG experts found a smart alternative: a software tool developed in-house simulates an ACC control unit (including plausibility checks such as the dynamic check sum, rolling counter) and ensures that pre-defined and reproducible braking requirements are carried out, and in this way, the vehicle's performance is validated.
The tool has now become well established, and is used worldwide.
Apropos saving time and money, a further example gives an impressive idea of which methods can be applied to make this type of validation more efficient.
We have all done it: you have just left a built-up area and are driving along the open road. Lost in thought, you look at the road, and before long, you find yourself asking "Am I actually allowed to drive 100 km/h here? Or was there a sign limiting the speed to 80?" Shortly after this, the first speed trap appears around a corner – and you quickly brake to 60, after all, you never know! The traffic sign recognition assistant has been developed to help here. A useful feature, and one which has become an essential element of any mid-range saloon car. It recognises road signs and helps the driver by displaying the last relevant information.
From a technical point of view, there are two ways of constructing this type of system. The currently valid signs are identified either with the help of the navigation device's position sensor or by means of a camera with image recognition software, which is positioned at the front of the car and can recognise and analyse signs.
The automotive industry makes use of both alternatives. The task of the driver assistance experts at EDAG is now to work out whether it is possible to combine the two possibilities. The thing to do is find out the added value and determine when data from the navigation system is really useful, when redundant, and when it serves no purpose at all.
Here again, the solution lies in an in-house development. With the help of a webcam, the software tool records all test drives carried out. At the same time, it also keeps a record of all the traffic signs recognised by the vehicle. At the end of these performance drives, the EDAG software automatically assesses whether the driver assistance system made the right decisions or needs to be improved upon. Not only an ideal way of coordinating the two technological approaches (GPS and image recognition), but also of judging what traffic signs should be displayed in what order. There is after all no need for every single one of the huge number of signs that a car passes to be displayed.
And while the challenges relating to the road sign identification assistant have been largely dealt with, EDAG is already busy developing the next aid: automated checking of parking systems. The idea here is for laser distance sensors and test automation to record the parking position of a piloted vehicle, in this way checking the performance of the parking system. There are a number of points that will require validation in the future, and the question as to whether it is easy to get out of the car once it has been automatically parked is just one of them.
The development of various ADAS systems will help to advance piloted driving. The fusion of sensors plays an increasingly important role here. It is, for instance, already possible for ultrasonic, radar and optical sensors to interconnect, so that they can work together to get a better picture of their surroundings. Added value that will come to bear in a wide variety of vehicle features. Features which will shift more and more responsibility away from people and towards technology, with the aim of making driving a safer and more relaxed experience.
It pays here if manufacturers of such systems and features have at their side a partner who, apart from being able to validate the assistance systems, also possesses the necessary knowledge in the fields of chassis development and active/passive safety, because the closer we come to autonomous driving, the more complex and challenging will interventions in chassis and engine control become.