WABCO was busy near the end of 2016, bringing its advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to multiple partnerships to advance autonomous driving and platooning of commercial vehicles. The supplier is working with Silicon Valley-based Peloton Technology to further develop its solution for truck platooning that uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication to sync the braking and acceleration between the trucks. WABCO’s OnGuardACTIVE collision mitigation system, with its 77-GHz radar sensor, is a key enabler of the platoon’s trucks, according to CTO, Dr. Christian Wiehen.
The company also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an Asian Tier 1 automotive supplier to establish a new joint-venture business that will develop, manufacture and sell electronically controlled active-steering systems for the global truck and bus market. This integration of braking, vehicle control and ADAS with the Tier 1’s active steering will support automated driving through intelligent control of both the longitudinal and lateral movements of vehicles, Wiehen said. WABCO already has worked with ZF to develop Evasive Maneuver Assist, an active steering system demonstrated on the ZF Innovation Truck 2016 prototype.
And yet another agreement, with Mobileye, combines Mobileye’s REM (Road Experience Management) vision and mapping technology with WABCO’s active safety systems, in combination with active steering control. Wiehen recently spoke with TOHE about its activities.
What are the next steps to full autonomy?
We see it as a long evolution through various gates of automated driving—you may know of the SAE categorization of different degrees of automation (SAE J3016 - read more at http://articles.sae.org/15021/). That will take us several years, I think more than a decade before we [reach] driverless vehicles. Along the way, we are bringing several technologies which will get us there. One was 20 years back, electronic braking. That was the first [step]—that provided the possibility to actuate the brakes from an electronic control signal rather than the driver pressing a brake pedal. The same thing is happening today for steering, where we have the possibility to actuate the steering system independent from the driver. So that's the base capability which we need to provide, and then of course it requires a lot of information, sensor data and decision-making in order to activate these subsystems. For example, forward-looking technology—we have better radars, we’re combining information from cameras to better identify the objects to which we need to react and discriminate from those for which we don’t need to react. False positives are a real problem which we want to avoid. So we are refining these autonomous emergency braking systems, and we are adding 360-degree vision for a ‘safety cocoon’ around the vehicle.
Is 360-degree sensor detection ready today?
Far-looking rear surveillance systems are necessary to make sure there is nobody approaching in the adjacent lane for overtaking maneuvers, for example—today, the decision if it’s safe to change lanes is left to the driver. If we want to automate that, we need sensors at the back—very likely at the back of a trailer. In the case of a commercial vehicle, trailers are exchanged, need to be compatible with other tractors, and you need to pass the information from the trailer into the truck guidance system. That tells you what could be one of the next technologies required to complement and further complete this ‘cocoon’—this needs to be developed, it doesn't exist today. Today we have blind-spot systems which work at the back of a trailer but only at short range; we need to look much further behind. And you need another kind of radar sensor [that works for] vehicles approaching it rather than coming on to [vehicles].
And then [for full autonomy] you get into trajectory planning and mapping as with Mobileye’s REM. You need a real-time map that is more ‘actual’ than what you download from a CD-ROM for GPS, and some more artificial intelligence to really make the driving decisions that the driver takes today. All of this is [part of] the long path of development which will ultimately get us to autonomous driving.
Can you talk specifically about the importance of active steering?
We need this capability to actuate the steering function from an electronic controller. So regardless of what the driver does at the wheel, we want to be able to impose a steering angle or a steering torque from the controller. The trajectory for the vehicle, be it in maneuvering backwards or evading a traffic jam, we want to follow certain coordinates and for that we need the steering input. We believe we have the power to take it at the bus but we need the steering system to work with that, and there are some synergies between the brakes and the steering system—for automated vehicles you need a fallback mode when the steering doesn't work. Active front-wheel braking done by stability control systems and ABS can give you a steering effect, so that would be a back-up functionality for the steering system and also demonstrates how closely linked they are. It is obvious that brakes and steering need to go together.
What role does WABCO play in platooning?
What we bring to the table [in the Peloton partnership] is obviously using all our safety systems on board, including active braking and predictive cruise control, [which] allow the closing of the distance between vehicles so that we can generate a significant fuel saving through aerodynamic efficiency, up to 10% for the following vehicles. Even the lead vehicle has a 4-5% fuel-saving opportunity. So a very powerful new partner for our market in the U.S.