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“Virtual” sensors are now helping improve the performance of vehicles. Dubbed “sensor fusion” by Swedish firm, NIRA Dynamics, the system analyses data from a number of sensors on a vehicle to compute new, virtual sensor signals.

The algorithms developed by NIRA Dynamics utilize sensors for wheel speed (for the ABS), yaw and/or roll rate gyros, accelerometers, GPS, and various engine and power train related signals. The algorithms developed by NIRA Dynamics utilize sensors for wheel speed (for the ABS), yaw and/or roll rate gyros, accelerometers, GPS, and various engine and power train related signals.

These signals are fed into a sensor integration unit, which merges the information from the different sensors and allows the computation of the virtual sensor signals. These, in turn, are used as inputs to various systems including anti-spin and adaptive cruise control systems. They can also be used in a Human/Machine Interface (HMI).
NIRA Dynamics has been a pioneer in the area of research and development of signal processing for vehicles. It continues to partner with world-class research groups at Linköping University in Sweden to ensure it is at the forefront of research in the area of sensor fusion and signal processing. 

One of company’s leading ranges is the NIRA Dynamics’ tire pressure indicator (TPI), which is described by the company as the most powerful indirect tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) available. The system alerts the driver if one or more of the tires is under-inflated long before the tire breaks down. TPI is very cost effective and easy to integrate into different electronic stability control systems (ESPs) and other types of hardware. TPI is already active in over one million vehicles. The system has shown to be very robust, with no customer complaints.

Recent tests in Southern Spain have shown that the latest software from NIRA Dynamics is fully compliant with the new EU regulations (ECE-R64) released in 2009. The regulations state, among others, that TPMS will be compulsory for all new cars by November 2012. 

NIRA Dynamics’ product portfolio has recently been expanded with a data logger box, aimed at OEMs’ development units. NIRA has started field tests with the new box which has interfaces to FlexRay, CAN, GPS etc. With the new box, data can be logged on to a small SD-card, and the whole unit can easily be fitted into a vehicle’s glove compartment.

In January this year, NIRA Dynamics appointed a new chief executive officer, Dr Predrag Pucar. Automotive Industries caught up with Paucer. AI asked him about the work NIRA Dynamics is doing with Linköpings University.

Pucar: We always have at least one project running together with Linköping University. I graduated, and obtained my PhD from the university, which makes contacts a lot easier. Right now, we are looking at the estimation of parameters connected to vehicle dynamics. Detection of changes in such parameters could be used for the preparation of other systems in a vehicle, for instance, the automatic cruise control and electronic stability programme. 

AI: What are some of the breakthroughs in sensor technology that you can share with us?
Pucar: Our core expertise at NIRA is the creation of virtual signals via sensor fusion and signal processing. One way of using sensor fusion is by utilizing existing information and our knowledge of dependencies in the system to bring about intelligent conclusions. The other application is to use low performance sensors and use sensor fusion to enhance their performance.

AI: What potential do you see for your indirect tire pressure monitoring system with 
new EU regulations?
Pucar: It is already implemented in over one million vehicles with the Volkswagen Group including Audi, Seat and VW. We recently upgraded the TPI – it is fully compliant with the ECE-R 64 requirements. It was tested in February in Southern Spain, where we drove nearly 100 000 km and TPI worked beyond expectations.

AI: You won the 2008 European Automotive Chassis Product of the Year Award for TPI. What gives TPI an edge over other similar products?
Pucar: Our major advantage is the price. For OEMs, we offer the most cost effective system, which is not only robust, it also fulfils all legal and customer requirements. For customers, there is no fuss with maintenance, sensors not working, and expensive workshop bills for something that should simply work. The environmental footprint of TPI is zero compared to the thousands of tons of toxic and electronic waste caused by sensor-based TPMS and their batteries. 

AI: Audi has introduced TPI in nearly all of their vehicles. Which other OEMs use TPI?
Pucar: So far, only OEMs within the Volkswagen Group use TPI in their vehicles. One of my main goals this year is to win at least one contract for a pre-series development that will lead to a series production contract after evaluation by the OEM.

AI: What is your mandate after taking over as CEO of NIRA Dynamics? Tell us a little about your vision for the company.
Pucar: My mandate is to develop the company further. We currently have one product that is a hit and so far, OEMs within the VW Group have adopted it. My mission is to develop NIRA Dynamics over the next three to five years, to obtain customers for TPI outside the VW group and to have at least one other top-selling product, with one more in an early concept phase.

I  believe that customer diversification of TPI will be straightforward. The challenge is to find another best selling product. We are currently working together with Linköping University, and we will also work together with the OEMs within the VW group to find problems to solve the NIRA way. 

Cooperation with other companies to develop innovations in the car industry is another source of inspiration. We have initial contacts with several other firms, but we can discuss this in a year or two. Right now it is too early and sensitive to share with the public.


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