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Continental, BMW lead R&D on automated driving

Posted: 05 Mar 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:automated driving  road safety  R&D 

BMW and electronics supplier Continental have collaborated on an R&D project that aims to jointly create the technology required for highly automated driving. The project is designed to run until the year 2014 and includes automatic driving even on high-speed motorways.

In January, the two companies signed an agreement to jointly develop an "electronic co-pilot" system capable of supporting highly automated driving. The main goal of the research partnership is to have highly automated driving functions ready for implementation until 2020 and thereafter. At the social, political, economic and scientific level, a vision has now emerged for road safety—in the form of "Vision Zero (Accident-Free Mobility)" and "Safety for All". The research project on highly automated driving will aim to implement this. In addition to the safety aspect, the researchers also see opportunities for improved convenience and efficiency. "With our vision of highly automated driving, we are developing the technologies and methodologies for a range of cutting-edge driver assistance systems. Partially automated driving functions of the near future, like the traffic jam assistant, will mark an important step on the road to highly automated driving," says Christoph Grote, Head of BMW Group Research and Technology.

Over the two-year timeline until the end of 2014, a number of prototypes capable of highly automated operation on motorways will be developed. They will then be handed over to a selected group of trained test participants for pilot-testing of their near-production highly automated driving functions. The tests, which will take place on motorways throughout Europe, will take into account typical challenges such as motorway intersections, toll stations, roadworks and national borders.

Over the last ten years, the BMW Group already made experiments with the development of highly automated driving functions. In mid-2011, a BMW research and technology test vehicle underwent a public road test on the A9 motorway between Munich and Nuremberg—with no driver intervention. This research prototype, which is still undergoing continuous improvement, braked, accelerated and overtook other vehicles without driver intervention, while at the same time always adapting to the current traffic situation and adhering to traffic rules. This prototype has already been driven for some 10.000km, BMW says.

In order to enable precise and safe operation, the vehicle needs continuously "know" its exact positioning in the traffic lane and to reliably recognise all vehicles and objects in the vehicle's environment. This sensing is performed by a fusion of diverse and complementary sensor technologies including 360° lidar, radar, ultrasound and camera scanning.

The principal technologies required for highly automated driving were developed by BMW in the precursor research projects, "TrackTrainer" and "Emergency Stop Assistant". Based on a fusion of highly accurate digital map, GPS and video data, the BMW TrackTrainer can navigate vehicles round racing circuits fully autonomously, following the ideal "racing line". On 21 October 2009, the system was used to automatically guide a vehicle round the Nürburgring North Loop.

In the context of the current project, BMW and Continental also will develop a safety architecture which ensures stable operation of the trial vehicles even in the case of a malfunction.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
   EE Times

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