From an exclusive set of safety technology just a few years ago, driver assit systems are not only becoming increasingly common in a growing number of car segments (in size and price terms), but at least as importantly also, a new requirement for several national or international safety rating organisations.
In this context, one of the world's main players in the automotive supply industry, TRW Automotive presented at its bi-annual Ride and Drive media event earlier this month (4th) at the Hockenheimring circuit in Germany, some of its driver assist systems (DAS), with a number of sensor technologies expected to hit the markets in the near future.
As Andrew Whydell, director product planning, TRW Electronics, indicated, driver assist systems will remain at the centre of the automotive industry, governments and industry bodies efforts to reduce road fatalities.
Beyond intentions, significant examples of these efforts can be found in the introduction by both the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP – euroncap.com) and the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS - iihs.org) this year, of several active safety criteria into their assessment programs which can be met with forward-looking radar and video camera sensors.
Whydell indicates precisely that Euro NCAP added, from this year, the automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure warning (LDW) into its ratings scheme. On the other side of the Atlantic, the IIHS has made fitment of forward collision warning (FCW) or AEB a prerequisite to receive its "Top Safety Pick +" consumer safety award.
From 2016, Euro NCAP will add pedestrian AEB into its assessment program, while also considering for future updates additional tests for other vulnerable road users such as cyclists.
From this perspective, TRW underlined the depth of its experience in radar and video camera systems, by indicating that it is currently implementing its third and fourth generation sensor systems, adding that these do not only address the immediate industry requirements, but also the necessary capabilities to enable semi- and automated driving.
Whydell explained that "as we move towards cars that allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel for periods of time, we'll start to see additional sensors being fitted to monitor 360° around the vehicle and also the driver's attention level."
He further specified that as "these systems will need to allow time for a distracted driver to be able to retake control of ... (his / her) vehicle, radar sensors will therefore require a wider field of view at shorter range, combined with an overall longer range detection capability."
Hence, "next generation video camera sensors will likely have lenses which can extend the range for detecting vehicles to 250 metres (273 yards) and beyond for highway driving, while also allowing you to see what is happening close to the vehicle when maneuvering at low speed."
ESA TRW defines the role of its Emergency Steering Assist (ESA), as demonstrated on a prototype vehicle at the Hockenheimring, as helping the driver in an emergency situation... "when an evasive steering maneuver is initiated... the system applies an additional steering torque during the maneuver and assists the driver in lateral vehicle guidance...".
As further explained by Dr. Carsten Hass, engineering manager of Integrated Active and Passive Safety Systems at TRW: "Emergency Steering Assist is our next step in collision avoidance. For example, if you swerve to avoid an obstacle, the system will calculate the optimal trajectory around it and additional steering torque will be applied to help to follow the trajectory and stabilize the car."
Thanks to the real-time image and data collected (of the road ahead) by the video camera and radar sensors, TRW's ESA determines the optimal input it has to send to the electrically powered steering (EPS) system.
In any case, Dr. Hass points out that the "driver remains in control of the vehicle and can override the system at all times. ESA is designed to (help) the driver to react faster and more accurately", not to replace him or her.
As far as market launch is concerned,TRW says that this technology, which it developed with the TU Dortmund (Technische Universität Dortmund), will be ready for production in 2017 for 2018 model year applications.
LKA+CLC Bearing this in mind, TRW announced last December that its latest Lane Keeping Assist technology, incorporating closed loop control, has gone into production for the first time on two vehicle platforms for the European market (unnamed yet).
Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) integrates data from a video camera sensor with Electrically Powered Steering (EPS) to apply a short counter-steer torque via the steering system to help assist the driver in preventing the vehicle from unintentionally leaving the lane.