The increasing emphasis by OEMs on active safety systems to prevent, not just mitigate, road accidents, has seen suppliers applying sophisticated solutions that present increasingly viable business cases.
Delphi’s latest move in this direction, RACam, combines radar with a camera system and processing capability in a single box. The fusion of data from the two sensor types enables a suite of active safety systems including adaptive cruise control with stop-start and autonomous braking, headlamp control, traffic-sign recognition, and pedestrian detection also with autonomous braking. The company anticipates that it is about 2 to 3 years from application in a production vehicle and is seen as a highly integrated, potential cost-cutter because it will eliminate the expense of multiple units.
Mike Thoeny, Delphi Electronic Controls’ Global Engineering Director, says of RACam’s capability: “The fusion of radar and camera into one intelligent module provides a sophisticated analysis of the road scene while moving the radar out of the vehicle’s crush zone. The compact module (123 x 68 x 38 mm) can be mounted neatly on the back of the rearview mirror rather than behind the vehicle’s front grille, eliminating the potentially substantial repair costs that could be incurred if a conventional radar system is damaged in a frontal impact.”
The system incorporates Delphi’s electronically scanning radar (ESR), which combines two scanning modes in one unit: long-range with narrow field-of-view detects and tracks targets up to 200 m (656 ft) ahead; a medium-range mode with a wide field-of-view detects pedestrians and other targets up to 60 m (197 ft) ahead. Delphi claims that its proprietary radar waveform improves data update rates and accuracy and that the elimination of all moving parts results in a high degree of reliability.
“Such systems have to be very robust, both physically and in the consistency of their data analysis,” said Thoeny. “Combine those capabilities with the much lower costs and simpler integration that we can achieve with RACam, and we will start to see enough volume to make a significant reduction in deaths and injuries on our roads.”
Delphi’s radar technology is also used in its Rear and Side Detection System (RSDS), which alerts drivers of approaching vehicles that may be difficult to detect in sideview mirrors. The system uses a compact 76-GHz radar sensor, which the company claims provides superior long- and short-range performance, target discrimination, and range calculation compared to conventional automotive 24-GHz units. RSDS is scheduled for production during 2012.
Within 5 to 10 years, Delphi expects to offer active safety systems with a 360° view, but Thoeny is anticipating far more advances beyond these: “We are looking at vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure so that the sensing range is extended to several kilometers, allowing traffic to be diverted around dangerous or congested areas.”
However, he stressed that Delphi does not see the driver being taken out of the control loop: “The system should inform the driver and only intervene when he has not reacted to avoid an accident.”
To support this strategy, data from active safety sensors is being integrated with workload management systems. Henrik Clasen, Strategy Manager of Delphi Electronics & Safety, explained that products such as his company’s MyFi allow a significant increase in the level of entertainment and information available in a vehicle, but emphasizes that managing driver distraction is an important part of safe implementation.
“If we know how much attention the driver needs to deal safely with the road conditions, we know how much infotainment functionality he or she can deal with at the same time,” he said. “So, with data from active safety systems, we can then immediately bring to the driver's attention a developing situation, blocking out extraneous information—such as uploaded smartphone applications—to focus his or her full attention on the priority situation, which may be to the front or side of the vehicle.”
Considering active safety capabilities that are still further into the future, Thoeny pointed out that the growth in electronic actuation and control of other vehicle systems is seen by Delphi as an opportunity to provide even more enhanced levels of integration and cost-reduction: “The higher voltages associated with powertrain electrification will make it simpler to implement electric braking and steer-by-wire, both of which offer opportunities for enhanced accident countermeasures.”