June 12, 2002

Automatic collision avoidance system unveiled

Birmingham, England – TRW Automotive, a major automotive supplier, unveiled a new automated safety system yesterday that combines active safety systems – braking, steering, suspension and vehicle control systems – with video and radar sensing to automatically avoid collisions.

Called the Driver Assistance Systems (DAS), the new system will begin with the introduction of a radar enabled Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) on a Volkswagen model this year, and will finish with the introduction of automatic collision mitigation systems in eight to 10 years.

Ultimately, DAS will involve vehicles equipped with drive-by-wire technologies programmed to assist the driver to take evasive action to avoid or minimize vehicle crashes.

Nick Ford, product planning manager, advanced (electronics) control systems, said, “We have a very clear vision of how our active safety systems can work in conjunction with radar, infrared and vision sensing systems to support the driving process for enhanced comfort and safety. We’re not talking about removing the responsibility of the driver, but rather about providing driver support and feedback to remove the stress caused by today’s driving conditions.

“We’re developing a number of new sensor and data fusion technologies that will make our vision a reality. Already we have firm contracts for our ACC systems on four Volkswagen Group platforms and with two major truck original equipment manufacturers and are in discussion with other major manufacturers regarding our vision systems.

“The evolution towards integrated vehicle control systems is the result of a long series of developments in automotive electronics. As the reliability of electronics in automotive environments has improved and the cost of electronics decreased, more and more of the individual control functions have transitioned from mechanical systems to electronic systems. Equally important has been the development of vehicle networks and protocols which enable the sharing of sensor and control signals among the various vehicle subsystems.”

TRW Automotive’s future development of driver assistance systems is broken into three phases: ride and handling optimization, highly reactive vehicle control and predictive vehicle control. Ride and handling optimization involves the integration of braking and steering systems to deliver enhanced cornering. The next phase, highly reactive vehicle control, moves to by-wire technologies such as steer-by-wire and electro-mechanical braking as well as systems controlled by sensor fusion to deliver active braking, steering and collision avoidance. The final phase, “predictive control,” involves the integration of in-car systems and sensors with environmental sensors and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to provide enhanced driver information and creating the base for collision mitigation and avoidance.

ACC is an example of a system that will move through these development phases. TRW’s ACC system uses radar to identify and track the closest vehicle ahead in its lane. If the vehicle is travelling slower than the selected cruise speed the system sends a signal to the engine and braking system to decelerate until an appropriate following distance is achieved. The next phase of development of this system is known as “follow-stop,” whereby the ACC system is capable of following the car in front down to a standstill. The final phase of this comfort system, known as “stop & go,” will further extend the capabilities of this system to enable the car to accelerate when the vehicle in front begins to move forward.

Advanced systems of this type require high quality information about both obstacles and the surrounding environment. Radar and lidar systems are focused on the accurate determination of the vehicle locations, but consider little information about the road structure. TRW is developing video-based systems that can detect road structure information through lane markings. These systems can also be used to detect rain and light-levels, with future generations having the potential to detect signposts, pedestrians and vehicles. A wide variety of applications can make use of this information, such as lane departure warning, lane guidance, ACC, blind spot warning, drowsy driver monitoring and adaptive headlights. TRW is currently in discussions with several vehicle manufacturers regarding development contracts for its vision-based driver assistance systems.

Lane following systems are being developed by TRW and will be available for passenger cars in three to five years. This system combines video sensing with TRW’s steering expertise to assist in the lateral control of the vehicle. Again, like ACC, this system will follow the DAS development path outlined above. Lane Departure Warning systems analyze video and vehicle trajectory information to warn the driver of potential lane departures through audible and haptic) feedback. The capability of this system will be extended to actively control the vehicle to automatically maintain an acceptable lane trajectory through interaction with the steering system.

Dr Alastair Buchanan, TRW’s research and development program manager for DAS technology, said, “Vision-based technologies can be used to both warn the driver of unintended lane departures and to reduce the workload of the lane keeping task. This will lead to improved driver comfort and safety, particularly in an age of mobile phones and vehicles offering increasingly sophisticated communications services to the driver which can easily distract from the primary driving task.

“These developments use TRW’s Electric Power Steering (EPS) system, which is currently in production with Fiat and Nissan, to actuate the steering. The EPS applies an additional torque which assists the driver in lane keeping. A key design feature here is the steering feel, so that the assistance feels natural rather than intrusive.”

Ford added, “With TRW’s strength in both active and passive safety, we are ideally positioned to deliver the technologies which will revolutionize the driving experience for the vehicles of tomorrow.”

TRW Automotive makes braking systems, steering systems, suspension systems, occupant safety systems, electronics, engine valves, and aftermarket replacement parts for the global automotive industry. The company’s 2001 sales were $16.4 billion (USD). TRW can be found at www.trw.com.

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