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Driver assistance

Assistance systems of the future will make driving more comfortable. Video cameras will observe the behavior of other road users and identify their intentions. Radar and laser sensor technology will assimilate the current traffic situations. Communication among vehicles as well as with the infrastructure will remove the restrictions of individual vehicle sensor capabilities. The vehicle can see round corners and knows the traffic light cycles in advance.

The vehicle thus acquires the technical ability to perceive both its immediate and more distant road environment, and can thus create a picture of the traffic situation. The driver receives information which allows him to act with foresight to defuse potentially hazardous situations.

Whatever the activity, the human driver retains ultimate authority. The safety of the driver and the safety of all other road users is the top priority for all assistance systems.

“Whatever the activity, the human driver retains ultimate authority.”

On the road with the Auto-Pilot from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas

January 2015

The new design for the Auto-Pilot prototype (Jack)

Watched closely by most of the world's media, an Audi A7 travelled a distance of around 560 miles from Stanford, California, to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, without a driver. This prototype is known as the Audi Piloted Driving Concept and is yet another fine example of Audi's pioneering role in the field of piloted driving. The technology used in this impressive test drive is the result of the Auto-Pilot project run by Group Research. As early as spring 2014, the Auto-Pilot was already travelling long distances automatically, driving 650 km from Ingolstadt to Geneva (see Group Research newsletter dated April 2014). However, the demands on the car used for the test journey to the 2015 CES in the US were significantly higher than those for previous tests. For the first time ever, there were no engineers in the Audi A7 when it undertook its 900-km journey. Instead, five selected international journalists got the chance to experience the journey from the driver’s seat (Phil LeBeau, CNBC – Jason Harper, Fortune – Alex Davies, Wired – Jürgen Schmieder, Süddeutsche Zeitung – Kim Reynolds, Motor Trend). Sitting behind the Auto-Pilot’s steering wheel, they were able to discover the prototype’s power and the advantages of the system for themselves. To prepare for the journey, the journalists completed a one-day training course for testing automatic vehicles, permitting them to trial piloted vehicles in accordance with Californian law. The Auto-Pilot vehicle had to prove its worth in conquering the tougher road conditions and heavy traffic in the US, while still providing as smooth a driving experience as it would on German motorways (including changing lanes).

Arrival in Las Vegas

Accompanied by a film crew from Hollywood, the vehicle took two days to travel the test route from Stanford to Las Vegas via Bakersfield. The system was set up so that the auto-pilot system only took over when driving on the highway. Thanks to the HMI concept (the first of its kind to be incorporated in an automatic vehicle), the journalists always knew the current driving mode and were aware when they needed to take over control of the vehicle again (e.g. prior to leaving the highway or entering urban areas). The goal of this journey was to showcase the next revolution in piloted driving using sensors which are already used in production vehicles or which are at an advanced stage of development. And the Auto-Pilot team managed to achieve this goal with very impressive results. All of the journalists were blown away by the system’s performance, particularly because they did not need to correct the system once throughout the entire piloted section of the route. 

Thanks to the outstanding organisational efforts and support from our colleagues at Audi and the ERL, the journey received a positive response from the international press. Visit http://blog.audi.de/ (articles in German) or https://audimedia.tv/ (available in German and English) to find out more about this two-day event. 

Driverless Vehicles – Full-Speed Ahead

At the season finale of the DTM on 19 October 2014, Audi, working in collaboration with Group Research and the Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), got the chance to show the world just how exciting piloted driving can be. The Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept completed the Grand Prix circuit in Hockenheim at top racing speeds, all without a driver.

Thanks to the active support of Group Research and the ERL, Audi took yet another important step forwards in the development of piloted vehicles. Prior to the start of the season finale of the German Touring Car Masters (DTM), the latest revolution in the field of driverless technology pushed its physical limits out on the track. With maximum precision, the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept completed the Grand Prix circuit at Hockenheim in just over two minutes. At the end of its automated journey, it glided into the pole position on the track, braking accurately to within a few centimetres. It attracted thunderous applause from the stands (and even from the Mercedes stand) at the start and finish.

“The Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept has put on a top performance here today, showcasing our development team’s skill when it comes to piloted driving here at Audi”, said Professor Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Audi Board of Management responsible for Technical Development. “Our findings from the project have been very valuable for future development stages as well, particularly those related to precision and performance.”

The Audi RS7 vehicles Bobby and AJ were developed and engineered as part of the joint Race-Pilot project between Audi, Volkswagen Group Research, the ERL and Stanford University (both of which are based in California). This project was a wonderful example of how an international, cross-Group team can work so closely and successfully with one another. Group Research are very proud to be part of this strong team and want to thank our colleagues for giving us a chance to be part of the action.

For the more tech-savvy reader: Audi RS7 production vehicles have undergone improvements to their sensor systems, actuating elements and algorithms. The architecture for the two Race-Pilot vehicles and their systems is based on the results of existing automated driving projects, such as Auto-Pilot. In order to navigate the vehicle around the track, engineers installed a GPS-based inertial navigation system, monitored by a back-up locator based on a stereo camera. Track marshals are also on hand away from the road to observe the vehicle and its surroundings for driverless journeys. The use of redundant transmission channels to the vehicle enable engineers to supervise the journey and exchange telemetric and location data.

History: Parking Steering Assistance

Parks in even the tightest of spaces – the new “Park Assist” from Volkswagen

  • Parking Steering Assistance scans the space and maneuvers the vehicle in
  • Minimum size of parking space reduced

Some new refinements have been added to the Volkswagen “Park Assist” system which was launched two years ago: the upgraded system, which makes it easier to park in spaces oriented parallel to the roadway, can now also perform multiple-move parking maneuvers. The latest generation of Volkswagen’s successful Parking Steering Assistance makes parking in tight spaces child’s play. This enhanced technology highlight can already be ordered for the new Golf Plus, and will also be available in other models soon.

The latest generation of “Park Assist” is activated by pressing a button. The driver signals to the system the side of the street on which he or she wishes to park by activating the flasher on that side. As soon as the “Park Assist” system has located a suitable space at least 1.1 meters longer than the car to be parked, it notifies the driver via the multifunctional display. All further instructions the driver needs for reverse/forward maneuvering into a perfect parking position are given in the display. Like the original version of the system, which required a space at least 1.4 meters longer than the vehicle, the new “Park Assist” system steers the vehicle into the parking space independently. The driver retains control of the gas pedal, clutch and brake, and checks that everything is clear during the parking maneuver.

History: Intersection assistant

  1. A driver’s miscalculation of speed...

    ....and distance or failure to stop at red lights or “Stop” signs are common causes of accidents at intersections.

  2. The "intersection assistant" ...

    ...recognizes this type of critical situation at intersections and warns the driver of red light infringements or hazardous turn-off maneuvers. The system can also recommend the right speed for a green traffic light wave or when approaching a red traffic light.

  3. At crossroads,...

    ...the “intersection assistant” supports the driver by direct communication between the vehicle and the traffic signals. Camera systems installed at the intersection monitor the traffic situation and send this information together with the signal times to the vehicle via wireless technology. The system evaluates the data received together with onboard information from the vehicle such as speed, distance from the intersection and direction of movement.

  4. Appropriate traffic infrastructure...

    ...equipment and links between the infrastructure and vehicle communication technology offer potential for enhancing traffic safety further. The driver always retains responsibility for the vehicle and is offered support in hazardous situations from the “intersection assistant”.

History: Temporary Auto Pilot

(Semi-) Automatic driving is safe driving

Every road accident is one too many. Rules and laws about driving and using roads can be tightened, and passive safety can be increased to protect the driver and passengers. Both help, but accident free mobility would be even better. That might seem like a utopian dream, but it is in fact more real than many imagine. At the final presentation of an EU research project, Volkswagen presented the Temporary Auto Pilot (TAP) which, according to Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Executive Director Volkswagen Group Research, is “an important milestone on the path towards accident-free mobility”. Monitored by the driver, with TAP it is possible to drive semi-automatically up to a speed of 130 kilometers per hour on motorways. The system bundles its own remarkable abilities with present-day driver assistance systems such as ACC adaptive cruise control and the Lane Assist lane-keeping system. “This brings us a big step forward”, says Leohold. “But the driver always retains driving responsibility.” Avoiding hazards, preventing errors The Temporary Auto Pilot is a flexible system that offers the driver an optimal degree of automation as a function of the driving situation – traffic density, route, traffic regulations – and therefore prevents accidents due to driving errors by an inattentive or distracted driver.

Once the driver has selected the semi-automatic driving mode – referred to as Pilot Mode, for short – TAP maintains a safe distance to the vehicle ahead, drives at a speed selected by the driver, reduces this speed as necessary before a bend and maintains the vehicle’s central position with respect to lane markers. The system also observes overtaking rules and speed limits. Stop and start driving maneuvers in traffic jams are also automated. With TAP it is possible to drive at speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour on motorways or similar roads. Drivers must still continually focus their attention on the road, so that they can intervene in safety-critical situations at any time. And TAP gives the driver plenty of leeway – right down to overriding or deactivating the system.

In contrast to previous research vehicles like Junior and Stanley, the TAP developers at Volkswagen had access to a great deal of experience and plenty of existing hard- and software. Extensive use was, for instance, made of production-level radar-, camera- and ultrasonic-based sensors. The laser scanner and the electronic horizon, on the other hand, are new developments. International cooperation for EU research project The Temporary Auto Pilot is part of the EU research project HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport). Under the project vehicle manufacturers, automotive suppliers, and scientific institutes from Germany, France, Greece, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Hungary work together to further develop concepts and technologies for highly-automated driving. The ultimate goal is to prevent accidents, support drivers and reduce the environmental impact.

“The Temporary Auto Pilot is a flexible system that offers the driver an optimal degree of automation as a function of the driving situation – traffic density, route, traffic regulations – and therefore prevents accidents due to driving errors by an inattentive or distracted driver.”

Volkswagen Group Research is responsible for studying the feasibility of this matter and not its use as standard equipment. The use in vehicle production is not currently planned at this time.