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Has it ever happened to you? Brief inattentiveness or a slight wavering in concentration while driving can lead to a critical situation and you can only hope that you brake in time. In the best case, the situation ends with just a sweaty brow and a thumping heart. In worse cases, crumpled sheet metal or personal injury is the result. They say that every driver has experienced something similar and if not, they certainly will at some point.
Collision warning systems or autonomous braking systems are now available in cars and trucks so that critical situations turn out in the best possible way. If they cannot prevent an accident, they are at least able to reduce the impact speed of vehicles. And even if it sometimes does not seem so, even very small speed differences can significantly affect the consequences of an accident.
Today, we are seeing an increase in various vehicle electronic systems, for example with regard to comfort or active safety. The list of systems generally covered by the acronym ADAS doesn’t just end with brake assist. Others include, for example, lane keeping systems, blind spot detection, and automatic evasive manoeuvre systems. In addition, vehicle manufacturers, in collaboration with developers, are coming up with other new systems that pave the way for the arrival of partially or fully autonomous vehicles. All these systems need to be developed and subsequently assessed and tested, either in terms of legislative requirements for operation approval or methodologies of consumer organisations.
This year, our TÜV SÜD team in Czech Republic has invested in the equipment required for such tests. Hand in hand with the investment, the ADAS & AD Tests department was set up to carry out physical tests of advanced driver assistance systems. The department’s team has a robotic platform with a soft vehicle target and a robot for the steering wheel and pedals in the test vehicle. Everything is connected to a system using differential GPS technology for driving vehicles and platforms.
At first glance, the equipment may look simple and the platform with the soft target may resemble an overgrown RC car. However, once you study the details of the individual system components, you will find, for example, that the soft target is the result of a long development process and an impact-safe substitute for a real vehicle, with all the right features to stimulate the sensors of the test vehicle. At the same time, the target must be stable at speeds of up to 100 km/h, because that is the speed at which the 320 kg heavy robotic platform can drive a few inches off the ground with an accuracy of up to 2 cm. But if the test vehicle hits the soft target, the target breaks down into many smaller pieces and the platform can withstand the vehicle passing through. Nothing happens to the test vehicle or platform during the collision. Not even during tests with trucks, because we own a version that we can adjust to such tests. In combination with the steering wheel and pedal robot, the entire system is able to meet the demanding requirements of legal regulations (UN/ECE) or consumer organisation protocols (e.g. EuroNCAP).
Tests according to current and newly emerging European legislation (ECE regulations, e.g. No 131 for emergency braking of M2, M3, N2 and N3 category vehicles) and as required by EuroNCAP (or its international counterparts) are a priority for future testing. Both the UN in the area of ECE regulations and EuroNCAP have plans for the coming years to expand the requirements for the deployment and testing of ADAS systems. Thus, in the future, we can most likely expect a wider deployment of automatically commanded steering function (ACSF) systems, for example, for changing lanes. The emergency braking system could also become compulsory in passenger cars. EuroNCAP plans to introduce testing of automatic emergency evasive manoeuvring between 2020 and 2022. Emphasis will also be placed on virtual testing of ADAS systems. We, at TÜV SÜD, think about this too and our centre will support these activities with physical validations. Another important milestone will be the interconnection of the soft target test system with the remote-controlled vehicles developed by our Highly Autonomous Driving (HAD) project team in Germany.
We are building the base for such tests at Mnichovo Hradiště airport. But our team is not dependent on one area alone. Thanks to the purchase of a special van with a lifting device, we are able to drive all the equipment to all our customers and test their vehicles in their designated areas.
In the near future, it will be necessary to invest in additional equipment required for testing the complete Safety Assist test package under EuroNCAP or the newly introduced European regulations, for example, for monitoring cyclists in the blind spots of trucks when they are making a turn. Night test equipment will also follow as it also required by protocols. We are expecting more complex scenarios in the coming years, for example, for autonomous braking in various situations at intersections. Here, soft targets in the form of both a vehicle and a pedestrian will be required in the same scenario.
The question is, where will all these efforts at making vehicles autonomous take us? Not only will large manufacturers find that commissioning a fully autonomous vehicle will take a very long time, it is also a task with a number of obstacles and questions in the form of legislation, unpreparedness of the surroundings and road users, with a large number of technical challenges or even ethical questions along the way. And even though answers to questions will raise a number of new questions, progress is being made. And we want to be ready for new trends in the area of ADAS testing.
For further information please contact Jakub Dvořák, Head of autonomous system testing, TÜV SÜD Czech
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