Integration of diverse research activities
The primary objective of research vehicles is to demonstrate various research projects on a common platform. Closely networked cooperation among the different fields of research is vital for designing a successful study.
Achievements such as twinDrive, NILS or eT! are therefore the result of teamwork throughout the research division.
Group Research can look back on a long tradition of research vehicles. Numerous innovations, including the automatic parking system, DSG gearbox or pump/nozzle technology, today feature in series vehicles.
Laying the foundation for driver assistance systems of the future
Sand as far as the eye can see. Plus a Touareg. No, this isn’t about an African tribe, nor is it a success story from the Dakar Rally. This is about Stanley, a Volkswagen Touareg that can manage very well indeed without a driver. Stanley is equipped with numerous high-tech systems that perform the responsible tasks of a “human” driver.
Stanley is an autonomous laboratory designed to test and further develop the technology of the future. Numerous sensors and a combination of four laser detectors gather vast amounts of data. Stereo visual display units, highly-developed 24-Gigahertz radar equipment and an extremely accurate, satellite-supported navigation system show the exact location of the vehicle digitally to the exact millimeter at any point on the journey and calculate the optimum route to the preset destination.
This concentrated flow of information is fed to the high-performance computer center with its seven 1.6-Gigahertz processors located in the trunk of the Touareg. The specially developed software computes the necessary changes in speed and direction and makes sure that Stanley reaches its destination safely.
Grand Challenge winner
Stanley is pretty nippy, too. The Touareg developed by Volkswagen Research in Wolfsburg in cooperation with Stanford University and the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto impressively confirmed its speed during the Grand Challenge 2005, a 220 kilometer race for autonomous cars. Stanley crossed the finishing line first, covering the journey through the Mojave Desert near Las Vegas in just under seven hours.
Although Stanley and all its skills are far ahead of their time, the Tourareg can today be found on display in a museum, or more accurately in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC, the world’s largest technology museum. That is in part due to Stanley’s uniqueness, which makes the vehicle a very popular attraction, and in part to Stanley’s even more impressive successor (Junior). The prototype Touareg also demonstrates very well what Volkswagen customers can expect from their vehicles in future. Some customers are already familiar with adaptive cruise control or ESP + driving recommendation, but Stanley and its successors have and will continue to pioneer further driver assistance systems, researching and developing into technologies that bring even greater safety and comfort.
Through the urban jungle all on its own
A futuristic-looking Passat Variant slowly approaches the crossroads. There is no sign of a driver. This may look like “Candid Camera”, but it isn’t. Junior can really find its own way through the urban jungle. In fact, the test vehicle is so adept at finding its way around that it won second place in the 2007 Urban Challenge, a competition for intelligent vehicles that drive fully autonomously.
Junior was created by Volkswagen Group Research in close cooperation with Stanford University and the Group’s own Electronics Research Laboratory also based in California. The German-American team intentionally chose the Passat as the basic model because as a production vehicle it already has features such as electro-mechanical power steering, an electronic gas pedal and an electrically actuated parking brake. In addition, the extremely fast shifting dual clutch transmission is also available as an optional extra. All relevant electrical systems and the brakes were modified such that they could be fully controlled by the high-performance electronic “brain” of the vehicle and could therefore operate fully autonomously. The Institute for Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University developed the necessary software.
Driver assistance systems of tomorrow
Junior’s hardware is pretty impressive, too. One laser scanner acquires data on the surroundings in the direction of travel, while two further scanners identify lane markings and road surface characteristics, and a rotating scanner on the roof delivers 360 degree vision. Junior’s “eyesight” is completed by two scanners each at the rear and the front. The vehicle also features five radar sensors whose main purpose is to identify the activities of other road users at crossroads.
Vehicles like Junior are used to develop and test the driver assistance technologies of tomorrow – for the benefit of customers: today’s innovative Volkswagen models already feature “Automatic Distance Control” (ACC) ensuring the prescribed safe distance, while “Side Assist” warns drivers about cars in the so-called blind spot in traffic and “Park Assist” makes parking child’s play.
- Extreme GTI perfects safety and dynamics
- Prototype for chassis development accelerated without driver handling courses
- Golf GTI 53+1 provides valuable data for chassis development
Active safety – and thereby the avoidance of accidents – is a key concept in vehicle development. Today, more accidents than ever are being avoided due, in particular, to active safety systems which have experienced continuous progress. A prime example of such systems is the Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP). Volkswagen is counting on its most innovative development processes and technologies to further improve on the status quo, enhance active safety and simultaneously – with intensified use of new innovative driver assistance systems – optimize dynamics. The latest example: a “self-driving” Golf. Its name: GTI 53+1. It is a driving machine for chassis development. It helps to ensure that cars are not only safe, they are both safe and dynamic. The Golf GTI 53+1 supports its “makers”, the specialists in driving dynamics at Volkswagen research, in attaining the best possible chassis from the hardware and software used. The 53 is reminiscent of the cinematic Volkswagen bug Herbie, which made movie history as the first ”self-driving” Volkswagen with this starting number.
Chassis and Assistance Systems for more safety and fun
Back to the job of the driving robot, the Golf GTI 53+1: Providing the foundation for the best possible active safety and greatest driving fun is an optimal fundamental layout of the chassis and a concentrated integration of driver assistance systems. Safety systems such as ESP are intended to prevent hazardous situations. However, they cannot do this by simply “shutting off” the car. Rather, driver assistance systems must contribute to the basic talents of the vehicle to safely master the possibilities of vehicle dynamics. The driving experience should stay fun, while continuing to enhance safety. To achieve precisely this objective more ideally than ever, Volkswagen developed the Golf GTI 53+1. It steers, brakes and accelerates. And if asked to, it does this at top performance and at the limits of what is feasible.
Race courses for the GTI 53+1 are constantly changing
Volkswagen engineers conduct test drives with the Golf GTI 53+1 on practically all kinds of marked circuit courses. For example: Ehra-Lessien, the Volkswagen test track at Wolfsburg. That is where courses are staked out that the Golf GTI 53+1 drives fully automatically and at maximum performance. It is worthy of note that the Volkswagen has been achieving course times that are just as fast as those of practiced professional drivers. The fact is: measurement results demonstrate a very high level of reproducibility.
Golf GTI 53+1 enables objective and reproducible analyses
Reproducible driving maneuvers, such as those achievable by the Golf GTI 53+1, facilitate more focused vehicle development. In particular, analytically separate evaluations of vehicle dynamics (functionality of systems), driving behavior (effects of systems) and driving conditions (environmental effects) are of decisive importance here. However, none of this would be possible without an automated system that can assume the functionality of the vehicle driver with sufficient precision. The Golf GTI 53+1 does this, and it therefore rises to the challenge of studying vehicle and driver influences in a more differentiated manner. The defined objective here: to recognize and correct vehicle weaknesses in dynamic driving tests more accurately. Similarly, the clever GTI can be used to study – with a view toward later model-specific variants – a broad spectrum of chassis-tuning characteristics and to individually configure them. Indeed this can be done in a very early phase of vehicle development.
An overview of the performance potential of the Golf GTI 53+1:
- Reproduced driving studies at the limits of performance
- Objective evaluation of driving dynamics at the limits of performance
- Analysis of courses for ideal line planning
- Driver-independent ideal line
- New knowledge of driving dynamics and its control
- New knowledge of total vehicle behavior
- Potential analysis of production system
The GTI 53+1 is based on the 147 kW (200 HP) production series GTI. It has the basic talent required for this task right from the factory. For example, it is only necessary to add an in-vehicle computer (a MicroAutoBox from dSpace) together with suitable CAN BUS wiring to control the electromechanical power steering (EPS) – without which the project would not have been feasible – and a slightly modified, electronically-controlled gas pedal (EGas) for driverless driving. Meanwhile, the computer – with its highly complex software developed in collaboration with the University of Hamburg – has in the truest sense the capability of computing where, and at what speeds, the GTI has clearance between the cones.
Moreover, as one might expect the 53+1 has numerous other technologies on board that its counterparts “in the outside world” must do without. An example is DGPS. Every car with a satellite navigation system has a GPS receiver for receiving signals of the Global Positioning System to zero in on the car’s current location. Its accuracy is within just a few meters. However, since the GTI 53+1 needs to know its momentary location with even greater precision, it has a DGPS unit on board. This “differential GPS” enables navigation within the centimeter range, providing highly precise feedback. Nevertheless, it only operates properly if the DGPS-equipped vehicle is in the vicinity of a fixed terrestrial transmitter that corrects for measurement error caused by clouds. Furthermore, the 53+1 has an auxiliary brake booster on board. This active brake booster supplies appropriate deceleration values. An example here is the laser scanner: A laser scanner installed at the front of the vehicle, from the German systems specialist “IBEO”, is responsible for acquiring data on the circuit course. The sensor acquires data over an area in front of the GTI 53+1 spanning an angle of 130 degrees.
This is how the Golf GTI 53+1 “learns”
Learning the driving segments marked by cones essentially consists of three phases. In the first phase, the GTI acquires and measures the cone positions using a laser scanner during a very slow drive. It determines its own position on the course by DGPS. Afterwards, in the second phase, the GTI evaluates – at a standstill – the acquired data by computer and determines the available driving space. Within this corridor an ideal line is computed as a target for lateral dynamic control, and a computation is made of how much leeway the GTI has to the right and left on the course. The ideal line to be driven is designed to minimize steering effort and driving distance, and it is computed in a stepwise manner by a special optimization method. The systems of the Golf GTI 53+1 use this as a basis for establishing the lateral dynamic profile and hence the actual line to be driven. Derived from this information are target values are such as maximum vehicle speed and longitudinal acceleration. During automatic driving in the extreme performance range the systems, in unison, attempt to approach the computed target values as perfectly as possible. Other control systems coordinate to correct excessive understeering and oversteering.
Volkswagen will utilize this substantially more focused and intensive development process to achieve further perceptible improvements in the driving dynamics of its automobiles. Moreover: Sporty performance and safety in new vehicles can be optimized harmoniously now that the system implemented in the Golf GTI 53+1 enables clear differentiation between vehicle effects and driver effects. The ability to conduct dynamic driving tests with production vehicles while excluding driver effects allows specific driving situations to be driven very accurately, which in turn makes it possible to derive suitable actions very efficiently. The impact for production vehicles: Extremely well-balanced Volkswagen models, in which driving safety and driving fun complement one another optimally.
PAUL parking assistance
A very narrow parking space? No problem for PAUL. That is the name of an intelligent parking assistance system that reverse parks vehicles into the tightest of spaces. PAUL automatically guides a vehicle with absolute precision into a perpendicular parking space and doesn’t even need a driver to help. In fact, the driver has already got out of the vehicle because the parking space is so tight he would hardly have been able to avoid damaging neighboring cars or getting his clothes dirty. Before exiting the vehicle he stopped the Passat in front of the parking space and set the selection lever of the dual clutch transmission DSG to “P”. Once the driver has alighted from the car he presses a button on the remote key and the car slowly begins to move as if by magic: first steering forward to the left, then turning its wheels right to slide backwards into the parking space. There’s still a bit of adjusting to do, so the vehicle again moves forward to the left and then reverses to slip perfectly into the gap between the two parked cars. PAUL is satisfied, cuts the engine and activates the door locks. When the occupants return from their shopping spree laden with parcels, PAUL drives the car out of the parking space at the touch of a button. Then it’s just a case of stowing the parcels in the trunk, getting in and driving off – easy as pie.
At the moment PAUL is still a research vehicle, and this intelligent parking assistance system calls on the series equipment and optional extras of the Passat as well as specially-built parts. Two small cameras located in the left and right exterior mirrors are responsible for gauging the dimensions of the parking space. Ultrasound sensors in the fenders, which are already available in series-produced vehicles, monitor for any obstacles or any obstructions at the sides. Wheel speed sensors provide data on speed and distance. PAUL’s brain, a computer specially programmed for this system, issues the commands for DSG, electro-mechanical steering and electrically actuated parking brake. Propulsion comes from the engine power produced by the idling mixture.
Mobility from the power socket
The Golf twinDRIVE silently glides into the garage. The driver gets out, inserts the plug in the power socket and the battery recharges. This kind of plug-in hybrid gets its charging energy from a socket and from the combustion engine. And the benefits don’t stop there: once technical developments are sufficiently advanced and an adequate number of plug-in hybrids are connected to the grid, these vehicle batteries could even be used as buffer storage to stabilize the power supply grids.
Experts agree there is still a very long way to go before we enter an automobile era that is as clean and resource-efficient as this. That applies both with regard to vehicle development and in terms of power generation. From an environmental point of view, electro-mobility is especially meaningful if the electricity is generated from renewable sources.
The plug-in hybrid system in the Golf twinDRIVE is an important step on the road towards establishing and expanding electro-mobility. The first prototype with its highly efficient diesel engine is fully suited to traveling long distances, but can also cover a range of up to 50 kilometers in pure electric mode. The rear wheels of the prototype are fitted with two wheel hub motors, a compact combustion engine and a further electric motor are installed under the hood, there is plenty of electronic gear and the lithium ion battery is installed in the trunk.
The technology of the Golf twinDRIVE allows the driver to decide on a pure electric mode or the hybrid mode at the touch of a button. Alternatively, the driver can leave this decision to the vehicle. When the destination is entered in the navigation system, the car’s electronic brain computes the most efficient way of using the electric energy stored in the battery until the next “refueling”.
It’s all about the electric motor
In future, urban travel will account for 80 percent of all journeys, so the focus is on efficient and clean drivetrains for short distances. Thanks to plug-in hybrid technology, these journeys can be made in pure electric mode. That is why, unlike hybrid vehicles, the electric motor plays the main role in the Golf twinDRIVE. However, this is only possible if there is an adequate network of recharging points. A fleet test being carried out in Berlin is looking into the kind of infrastructure that is needed as well as the requirements for plug-in hybrids and how they can be further improved. As many as 20 Golf Variant are to be powered by a central electric motor installed on the front axle combined with a gasoline engine.
Apart from several research institutes, an energy supplier and Volkswagen, battery manufacturers are also involved in the fleet test: one of the objectives of the project is to make headway in developing compact high-performance batteries to series maturity.
The Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro
It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mi) in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 180 km/h (111.8 mph). It covers over 500 kilometers (310.7 mi) on one tank of fuel – and its exhaust emits nothing more than a few drops of water: The A7 Sportback h-tron quattro, which Audi is unveiling at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2014, uses a powerful, sporty electric drive with a fuel cell as its energy source that operates in combination with a hybrid battery and an additional electric motor in the rear. The overall electrical system power of 170 kW is transferred to both the front and the rear wheels. This drive configuration makes the emission-free Audi A7 Sportback* a quattro through and through – a new departure in fuel cell cars.
“The A7 Sportback h-tron quattro is a genuine Audi – at once sporty and efficient. Conceived as an e-quattro, its two electric motors drive all four wheels,” explained Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi. “The h-tron concept car shows that we have mastered fuel cell technology. We are in a position to launch the production process as soon as the market and infrastructure are ready.”
The “h” in the name h-tron denotes the chemical element hydrogen. In visual terms the technology demonstrators that Audi has brought along to the Los Angeles Auto Show basically resemble the production models. As the label with the h-tron signet reveals, this concept car now takes its place alongside the other Audi models with alternative drive principles, the e-tron and g-tron. Externally, there is no other evidence of the fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electrical power on board the vehicle.
Single-seat electric vehicle concept with free-standing wheels, specially developed for commuters in tomorrow's world.
The NILS – a car for the urban world of the future. The single-seat electric vehicle represents a fascinating and exciting new form of mobility. With its progressively designed aluminium space-frame body combined with gullwing doors and free-standing wheels, the concept car – which was presented to the public for the first time at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in 2011 – offers a dynamic driving experience, while generating neither emissions nor noise. Pointing the way into the future, the project was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development.
New segment defined by the Volkswagen NILS
Electric drive is changing the whole idea of mobility. Electric drive will lead to completely new concepts for innovative vehicles that comply with the special requirement constellations more closely than ever before. One of these constellations relates directly to the commuter, millions of whom have to travel to work daily in urban districts around the world. For a variety of reasons, public transport is no longer the first choice of conveyance. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, around 60 per cent of commuters in Germany travel by car, with more than 90 per cent of these driving alone. A zero-emission vehicle such as the NILS would serve as a new eco-friendly mobility solution for these drivers. The Federal Statistical Office also points out that 73.9 per cent of all commuters travel less than 25 kilometres on their way to work. Thanks to its range of 65 kilometres, the NILS, which has a top speed of 130 km/h, would be the ideal vehicle for most commuters. Indeed, the NILS could well become the reflection of a new era.
The NILS takes up less space on the road
Narrower, lower, shorter, different. The concept car is very compact and takes up very little space on the road. Only 3.04 metres long, it is around 50 centimetres shorter than the new up! from Volkswagen. Wheel to wheel, it measures 1.39 metres. In spite of its compact dimensions, the NILS meets all the latest safety requirements for modern vehicles. Commuters would therefore not only help to reduce environmental pollution but would also be very safe in this car in traffic.
Design created in Potsdam. More important than the dimensions, however, is the design of the body. In its basic layout, the NILS resembles a Formula 1 car: driver in the middle, engine at the rear, free-standing aluminium wheels. The 17-inch alloy wheel rims are fitted with low-rolling-resistance tyres of sizes 115 / 80 (front) and 125 / 80 (rear). The clear, concise design of the NILS was created in the Volkswagen Design Center in Potsdam. On the one hand, the car had to visually underline the notion of sustainability and, on the other hand, it had to be a fun vehicle and look futuristic. Although the car body concept is completely new for the brand, the NILS is fully in line with the Volkswagen design DNA. The bumpers for example: it is no coincidence that their black-framed collision surfaces are reminiscent of the new up!. Thanks to the proposal for 2 glazed gullwing doors, it became possible to create large transparent surfaces and, simultaneously, make it easy to get into and out of the car, even in very tight parking spaces.
The NILS – speedy and nimble
15 kW and 130 km/h. Although or indeed because the NILS is so compact and weighs only 460 kg, users will find it enormous fun to drive: an agile car with a top speed of 130 km/h that can accelerate to 100 km/h in less than 11 seconds. To achieve this, a mere 15 kW is sufficient for the electric motor, to which energy is supplied from a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 5.3 kWh. A battery of this size is comparatively inexpensive and its capacity is sufficient for the purpose in question. The research vehicle is charged from normal 230 V sockets (maximum charging time 2 hours) or at an electric-vehicle charging station via the socket located at the back below the rear light module. Regarding the structure of the electric drive system, the engineers were able to exploit the enormous pool of experience accumulated by Volkswagen over the years in the development of concept cars such as the L1 and XL1 as well as of future mass-produced vehicles such as the Golf Blue-e-Motion or up! Blue-e-Motion. The rear axle is the powered axle. All the components of the drive unit are placed together compactly in an aluminium supporting frame. The unit, including the drive shafts, is integrated into the rear section of the NILS. The drive components take up so little room that there is still space above this unit for a small but practical luggage compartment (90 l – enough for a crate of drinks and a bag).
Optimum weight distribution. In a vehicle such as the NILS; the customer group would not only be able to glide to work effortlessly and soundlessly but would also have a lot of fun in doing so, as outlined above. This is because the lightweight NILS has a purely mechanical steering system and a bucket seat in the middle as in a racing car. When the vehicle starts from a standstill, the electric motor supplies a maximum torque of 130 Nm, which is transmitted to the rear axle with the help of a single-speed gearbox. Double-wishbone axles at the front and the rear are responsible for wheel guidance and suspension. The electronic stabilisation program ESP ensures that the NILS remains on course without affecting its agility. The very good weight distribution between the front and rear axles makes sure that the ESP has as little to do as possible.
The NILS brakes and accelerates automatically if so required
City Emergency Brake and Front Assist. Another important electronic aid on board is Front Assist with the City Emergency Brake. The permanently active system registers the danger of an imminent collision by means of a radar sensor in the front VW emblem and brakes the car automatically. Depending on the speed and situation, the emergency braking function can reduce the collision speed and, in some circumstances, can avoid a collision at speeds up to 30 km/h.
Automatic cruise control. The City Emergency Brake is a software extension of the Automatic Cruise Control (ACC) system. The latter's full range of functions is therefore available in the NILS as well. The ACC uses a radar sensor to measure the distance to the vehicle in front and the relative speed – parameters to which the NILS adapts the speed automatically. The driver simply selects the desired following distance and speed (similar to cruise control). The ACC system is controlled by way of multifunction buttons on the steering wheel and can be used over the entire speed range of the NILS. Moreover, it even brakes the car to a standstill automatically, depending on the situation. Deceleration is achieved not only via the four disc brakes but also by means of recuperation. In each case the driving circumstances are taken into account.
TFT display as instrument cluster. Specially designed for the electric vehicle, the instrument cluster displays the speed, the flow of energy (acceleration or recuperation) and the range. It also contains indicator lamps.
Clever touchscreen. The second important instrument is a mobile multifunctional talent, the Portable Infotainment Device (PID), similar to the one used in the new up!, situated to the right of the instrument cluster on the A-pillar. Here, the driver uses the touchscreen to control the various functions for navigation, radio, media, telephone and the on-board computer. “Eco” is another helpful function that predetermines the vehicle's range. When the car is started, the PID calculates the range and then not only shows the route on the map display but also indicates the radius and the destinations that can be reached with the remaining battery charge.
Aluminium space frame body
As safe as a large car. The aluminium space frame body, consisting of extruded parts, cast aluminium sections and aluminium sheets, has been conceived as an extremely effective safety cell. It endows the vehicle with a high degree of stability and crashworthiness, even though the car is very light. The bumpers and the panels of the side sills, among others, are made of robust weather-resistant plastic.
Wing doors consisting of 3 parts. The frames of the 2 aluminium wing doors are each basically composed of 3 elements; an outside section, a reinforced crash layer and an inside section. When closed, the doors offer optimum protection in a crash. The door windows are made of light, scratchproof polycarbonate while the windscreen is a piece of laminated safety glass.
Seeing and being seen. Xenon and LED elements are used for the headlights, rear light cluster and indicator lights. At the front, 2 bi-xenon modules serve as low beam and high beam lights. The indicator lights and the daytime running lights are in the form of white and yellow LEDs. The daytime running lights are located on the front wheel covers and are simultaneously used as position lights during parking. In the acrylic glass of the rear lights, at the sides in the form of small wings integrated into the rear part of the car, the light generated by LEDs is emitted via transparent semiconductors. Power consumption? Minimal, as it should be with an electric vehicle.
- Drive system: e-motor, rear-wheel drive, 15 kW, 130 Nm
- Gearbox: single-speed
- Lithium-ion battery, capacity 5.3 kWh
- Consumption: 6.5 kWh / 100 km (NEDC)
- Range: > 65 km in the NEDC
- Maximum speed: 130 km/h
- Acceleration 0 – 100 km/h: < 11 s
- Turning circle: 9.3 m
- L x W x H: 3,035 x 1,391 x 1,200 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,150 mm
- Track front/rear: 1,265 / 1,269 mm
- Weight: 460 kg
- Maximum payload: 120 kg
- Luggage compartment volume: 90 l
The e-T! research vehicle
The ultimate small transporter
The postman goes from house to house delivering his letters and parcels, returning occasionally to fetch more mail from his delivery vehicle, which follows him inconspicuously. Or maybe it is not actually as inconspicuous as it might first appear. At second glance, there is nobody to be seen in the driver’s seat, as the eT! research vehicle does not require a person to steer it. The FollowMe system ensures that it always knows the location of the postman and follows close behind, even managing to avoid obstacles such as dustbins in the process. The only time it stops is for safety reasons, when avoiding an obstacle that would require it to stray too far into the oncoming lane.
The ComeToMe system enables the postman to call the vehicle from a distance of around 25 metres. It follows the street and monitors the area directly in front of it, allowing it to perform an emergency stop if required. This minimises the distance that the postman has to travel to collect more mail supplies from his vehicle.
Easy on the environment and on the budget
The term “eT!” as we are using it has nothing to do with visitors from outer space, but the research vehicle conceived by a VW think tank is still teeming with other-worldly features. The catchy abbreviation is short for “electric transporter”, which sums up the vehicle in a nutshell. Powered by an electric motor, the vehicle was conceived primarily for use in inner-city mail delivery and courier services, and the project drew on a wide variety of areas of expertise. Braunschweig University of Art was a project partner, alongside the German Post Office (Deutsche Post AG), which is one of the largest buyers of lightweight commercial vehicles and a specialist in transport and mobility issues.
Two wheel hub motors on the rear axle provide drive. The battery provides sufficient energy to cover around 100 kilometres, which is more than adequate for the usual distance travelled daily by urban mail delivery services. The vehicle’s plus points include zero emissions at the point of use and a negligible contribution to traffic noise, making this small transporter considerably more efficient than its combustion-engined equivalent. This not only reduces the vehicle’s impact on the environment, but also relieves the burden on the operator’s transport costs budget.
Attention to every last detail
It is not only eT!’s futuristic drive system and control technology that sets it apart. Its styling, which was developed in close collaboration with the Volkswagen Design Center in Potsdam, is an example of a perfect blend of appealing lines and flawless functionality in a well-conceived design. For example, the passenger side of the vehicle is fitted with a sliding door known as a Doormatic which opens in two stages. The first stage facilitates access to the standing seat from the right-hand side of the vehicle, and also allows easy access to the seat behind the steering wheel. Stage two provides access to the load compartment. The eT! can be controlled from the passenger side using the Drive Stick. It is also equipped with the ProTurn* system, which enables it to manoeuvre in very tight urban spaces. This system can cope with a steering wheel angle of 65° (35 – 40° is usual), resulting in a turning circle of 8.5 metres.
An iPad provides information on the route and anything else to watch out for – even going so far as to issue a warning that a vicious dog may be lurking behind the next garden gate.
This short film gives you a sneak preview of the eT! and shows how it moves independently on the road.
The Research Vehicle Gen.E (Generation electromobility) shows the concept of a battery electric vehicle for long-distance mobility in the deployment horizon 2020+. The design of the vehicle architecture in "Purpose Design" is the answer to the requirements of a pure battery electric powertrain for large electrical ranges, adequate ride comfort and lightweight construction in mass production. The vehicle structure is designed in lightweight metallic construction with the claim to manufacturability in the volume segment A0 / A. The vehicle concept is intended to give an outlook on how future battery technologies will enable a new generation of electric vehicles, which will be of interest to a wider group of buyers with longer ranges. To achieve the longest possible range with a purely battery-powered electric vehicle, the structure of the Gen.E battery trough is made of lightweight aluminum. Heart of the research vehicle is the modular battery package, which can use two battery systems with different battery cells.
The perfect start: with the ‘RaceTrainer’, Volkswagen Group Research presents the prototype of a self-driving vehicle that trains its occupant in ideal driving behaviour on the test track, at first purely through observation, and then through active driving intervention. Thanks to a combination of augmented-reality displays and active driving interventions, the test vehicle is particularly effective in conveying driving expertise. This is a huge advantage that can also be used in other highly dynamic situations: in future, series-produced vehicles from the manufacturer should benefit from the results of this research and be able to provide even better support to the driver in demanding critical situations with next-generation assistance functions.
Stage 1: learning through observation
In the first part of the coaching, the VW Golf R completes its lap on the racetrack entirely automatically and always on the ideal line. Inside: a trainee, who carefully follows the individual manoeuvres of the RaceTrainer. In the first stage of the training, they do not even take the wheel – the system steers the vehicle completely independently in the full simulation.
With the help of augmented content and acoustic signals, it conveys the optimal driving approach to the occupant and shows at which exact parts of the course the self-driving vehicle accelerates or brakes to achieve the fastest possible lap time. The ideal line is shown in the AR HUD, while the required braking and steering are also augmented and conveyed acoustically. The trainee gets a good feel for the course and the required driving behaviour – from the very start.
Stage 2: Precise driving interventions, intuitive learning effect
Have all the details of the course been taken in? In the next stage, the driver gets their hands on the wheel and – still with the support of augmented and acoustic signals – gets to show what they can do. For the best possible learning effect, the Volkswagen RaceTrainer offers various modes – from training for beginners to racing for the advanced.
The following applies at every level: if the driver diverges from the ideal line, or acts too early or too late, the system actively steps in. While a beginner drives somewhat slower and can expect several ‘light’ interventions in acceleration, braking and steering, a higher speed is reached in advanced mode and the corrections by the system are more concentrated. For better learning, the interventions by the system are visualised in the HUD. The ideal conditions to intuitively pick up on and effectively learn the required driving approach.
Dr Axel Heinrich, Head of Volkswagen Group Research, is also convinced of that: ‘The combination of augmentation and driving intervention is completely new. It allows the system to combine highly dynamic driving with targeting learning. That is a huge plus point that we also want to transfer to assistance systems produced in series in future.’
Practical tools for preparation and follow-up
The RaceTrainer also makes precise preparation and follow-up possible in driving training. The ideal line and deviations in the individual training laps can be studied and comprehended segment by segment using the on-board instruments. For example, physical driving data can be displayed synchronously and the trainee’s driving behaviour can be compared with reference laps by the test vehicle.
The RaceTrainer – an innovative all-round concept from Volkswagen Group Research, which impresses in theory and practice with intuitive, and therefore quick, learning success.
Driving dynamics is a key element in automated driving to bring our customers to their destination as efficiently, safely and as comfortably as possible. Our vision is a self-learning suspension that adapts dynamically to the vehicle and current conditions. As a result, our vehicle dynamics systems provide the best possible vehicle control in all imaginable situations. Based on components for planning the driving trajectory and for controlling and regulating vehicles, for example, the latest approaches to machine learning and artificial intelligence are used. Thereby, the journey is continuously analyzed, the driving behavior learned and adapted to make the future ride better.
Fully automated vehicles that magically move on their own through the street network, for a long time appeared only in science fiction cinema. Now the vision is taking shape. The Volkswagen Group has made autonomous driving a priority topic of its future program TOGETHER - Strategy 2025. With SEDRIC, the Volkswagen Group's first concept car, the company is already providing a concrete vision of the future of individual mobility. The possibilities that self-driving systems offer to the people are almost unlimited. With autonomous vehicles, every person can gain individual mobility. One press of a button is enough and shortly thereafter SEDRIC is ready to board. Even children and people with physical impairments can thus participate safely and comfortably in public road traffic.
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.