Issue: Aug 2013


Vehicle automation under the spotlight



by Ed Richardson

Industry thought leaders and experts have met to help the automotive industry to manage the growing system complexity within increasingly automated and connected vehicles at a conference on Advanced Vehicle Dynamics and Driver Assistance Systems hosted by the International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC) from June 17 to 19 in Wiesbaden, Germany. Applications such as Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keeping Support (LKS), object detection and verification to support and improve sensor-based functions like Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and the Emergency Braking System (EBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) as well as driver drowsiness detection lead to new challenges for vehicle dynamics, according to the organizers.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Matthias Brucke (manager of Automotive Nordwest, an Industry cluster in the Northwest of Germany) what he sees as the main stumbling blocks preventing the introduction of cars which can operate on an autopilot-like system.

Brucke: The technology is not new - the first autonomous car was developed in Braunschweig in the 1960’s. Today the whole city is a test platform for autonomous driving. But, in order to see these on our roads we need to change societal attitudes and legislation. The integration of autonomous vehicles in regular traffic where you have different generations of vehicles is the challenge. Autonomous cars need to communicate with each other in order to manage the space between the vehicles. For that all the vehicles need to be connected through the same technology. That is why it is important that OEMs and Tier Suppliers collaborate globally on the development of this technology

AI: What are the legal challenges?

Brucke: The problem is liability. If something goes wrong, who is liable – the OEM, the supplier of the system or the driver? The question is at what point does the system hand control back to a human being – and is the driver ready to take control when that happens? We see the same in the aviation industry, where aircraft systems may not be left unattended even though modern planes are capable of flying themselves.

AI: What would make legislators turn their attention to these challenges?

Brucke: First is the congestion on our roads. Governments across Europe do not have the money to invest in infrastructure. But, we can increase traffic volumes and throughput if we convert the roads to managed road space through some kind of traffic control. Automated systems will allow authorities to maximize the flow and volumes on existing infrastructure. Autonomous systems will also increase productivity if people can use their car as a working space on their way to the office.

AI: What about electric vehicles?

Brucke: E-mobility is driving a societal change from the concept of owning a car to owning access to a car. Fossil-fueled vehicles will benefit from the technology needed to support electric vehicles, which is a separate eco-system that requires connectivity, telematics and Internet access. The electric car needs to be supported by a complex ICT infrastructure – such as integrated GPS for route management, and on-road monitoring. We can easily use this technology in conventionally powered autonomous vehicles. We are also seeing it in the change of the concept of car ownership. OEMs like BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen are introducing the concept of rental of the use of a car rather than ownership.

AI: So, will we have autonomous cars by 2025?

Brucke: It will definitely be available - because people will want this feature, and are willing to pay for it. Autonomous driving is driven from a technological point of view by the engineer and also answers societal needs.

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