A braking and cruise-control system that can move a vehicle up and down steep off-road hills. Vehicles that can detect at-risk road users not in the driver’s field of vision. These production-ready and production-intent technologies are in Continental’s product pipeline.
Pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists are vulnerable to a vehicle impact when hidden from a driver’s sight. While a camera-equipped vehicle can alert its driver to someone partially concealed by a parked car or other obstruction, even earlier detection is possible.
Continental is testing the use of ultra-wide-band sensors to identify at-risk road users. These proximity-based sensors, like those used in key fobs, are located on the side mirrors and on the passenger-side C-pillar of a demonstrator car tested by Automotive Engineering recently at the supplier's Brimley, MI, Development Center. A sensor-equipped safety dummy stands in for a wandering pedestrian.
By triangulating the sensor signals, the sedan’s communication network detects the safety dummy "target" three to four seconds earlier than a vehicle using cameras.
“This demonstration is a thought-starter. We have to start thinking about how to avoid accidents with vulnerable road users in order to have a solution in the future,” said Jeremy McClain, Continental’s North American Director of Systems and Technology, Chassis & Safety Division.
The 'Cruising Chauffeur'
Like V2V and V2I communications, knowing the precise location of a road user can help prevent an accident. Said software engineer Ganesh Adireddy, “It’s all about sharing information from the pedestrian road user, who in actual use likely would have a smart phone, a smart watch, or a special transponder.” Short-range communication can identify a person’s position more accurately and do so more quickly than GPS.
Precise location information is critically relevant in autonomous driving scenarios, which is why Continental’s "Cruising Chauffeur" feature is designed to add another layer of sensing capability to compliment long- and short-range radars and cameras. According to Eric Mertz, senior staff technical specialist for the V2X team, Continental’s M2XPro algorithm fuses GPS and vehicle sensor data.
“There are situations, like an urban canyon, where a GPS signal reflects off buildings," Mertz noted. "And when that happens, it gives a false indication of where you’re at in the city.” By incorporating M2XPro with the Cruising Chauffeur’s existing communication technology, positioning accuracy below 1.5 m (5 ft) is expected, he said.
Automated lane change and lane-change recommendation capabilities were added recently to the Cruising Chauffeur demo vehicles, according to Steffen Hartmann, test and validation engineer involved with the automated driving project. When a Cruising Chauffeur vehicle is in automated driving mode, a driver’s turn signal movement tells the car to make a lane change if it’s safe to do so. A lane change recommendation occurs via the HMI interface if a vehicle in front of the Cruising Chauffeur slows down.
Engineering teams in the U.S., Mexico, Germany, Japan, and Shanghai are working on the Cruising Chauffeur. “We’re making more and more steps toward our final SAE Level 4 automated driving vehicle,” said Hartmann. Continental officials expect technology for highly automated driving to be ready by 2020 and fully automated driving technology to be ready by 2025.
Tip-toeing off road
Continental is production-ready with its MK C1 electronic brake system with Off-Road Cruise Control (OCC). The MK C1 portion of the system recently debuted on the European-market Alfa Romeo Giulia.
The innovative MK C1 unit integrates brake actuation, brake booster, and control systems. It weighs 13 lb (6 kg), about 4.4-6.6 lb (2-3 kg) less than a traditional system. According to Tim Buchert, a vehicle test engineer with the electronic braking systems group, the electro-hydraulic MK C1 uses a linear actuator instead of the two- or six-piston pump that’s in conventional braking systems.
During a demonstration, a Jeep Grand Cherokee equipped with the MK C1 only required the driver to steer the SUV after the OCC was set at 1.2 mph (1.9 km/h). The vehicle climbed a rocky 30º grade. It also moved itself down, and up, a similarly steep grade while in reverse gear.
“The system is silent when building up brake pressure, so there isn’t any NVH or pulsating as the vehicle climbs or descends the hill," Buchert explained. "In a hybrid driving application, you can hit the brake pedal to send a deceleration request to the electric motors. The vehicle will slow down using the electric motors and over time slowly fade-in conventional braking.”