Automated driving solution three years away – Continental

Thursday 13th July 2017 | 0 Comments

If you enjoyed ‘no hands’ bike riding as a child, you’re going to love the future of motorway driving…
If you enjoyed ‘no hands’ bike riding as a child, you’re going to love the future of motorway driving…

Welcome to the future of driving, your Cruising Chauffeur awaits. That’s the name Continental has given its eagerly-awaited automated driving technology, and regardless of how it rolls off the tongue, Cruising Chauffeur represents something that will significantly change our driving experience. Continental plans to bring Cruising Chauffeur into production in 2020.

Tests of similar Continental systems began on public roads in the US state of Nevada back in 2012. At the time, it was the only state – perhaps the only place in the world – to allow self-driving cars on the road. Today, the technology company operates a fleet of development vehicles in Germany, the USA, Japan and China.

The Cruising Chauffeur function gives a vehicle the ability to take over the task of motorway driving in accordance with the national traffic regulations. It will allow the vehicle to drive itself, handing responsibility back to the driver at the end of any stretch of motorway. Continental explains that this handover will be initiated by a specially developed human-machine interface it is currently testing in its vehicle fleet. Should the driver fail to respond when prompted to take over – for health reasons, for example – the vehicle will be able to stop safely automatically using what Continental calls the ‘minimum risk manoeuvre’. This involves the Cruising Chauffeur identifying a lay-by place or another place where it can stop safely, and then automatically heading there.

“The Cruising Chauffeur brings a twofold benefit when it comes to safety,” comments Ralph Lauxmann, head of Systems & Technology within Continental’s Chassis & Safety division. “Firstly, automation avoids human error in regular operation while also offering a comfortable ride. Secondly, the Cruising Chauffeur includes an additional fallback mode that conventional vehicles do not have. If the driver is no longer able to take control of the wheel again, for whatever reason, then the Cruising Chauffeur nonetheless brings the car to a stop safely.”

Eliminating human error

Human error is the largest factor contributing to road accidents. Continental states it is responsible for around 90 per cent of all such accidents, and therefore it views automated driving as representing an important step on the path toward Vision Zero – the goal of road traffic without fatalities, injuries or accidents. When on the motorway and the Cruising Chauffeur takes over, the driver will be able to decide whether it does so on a partially automated basis, whereby the driver still has to monitor the system, or in a highly automated form in which the driver can turn his or her attention to other activities. Continental reports that this second option will become reality “in the near future.”

When the Cruising Chauffeur is activated, data from vehicle surroundings sensors such as cameras, radar and LiDAR is analysed in a central control unit known as the Assisted & Automated Driving Control Unit (ADCU). The Cruising Chauffeur’s algorithms use this to develop a 360-degree model of the vehicle’s surroundings. Combined with a high-resolution map, this includes all moving and static objects as well as the course of the road and the lanes. The vehicle’s own position in this model is precisely determined on a continuous basis, and the algorithms use this information to identify where the vehicle can safely and legally drive, enabling the Cruising Chauffeur to automatically change lanes and overtake.

Observing with ‘artificial empathy’

With an interior camera, Cruising Chauffeur can analyse the driver's gaze pattern and decide whether or not they’re paying attention

With an interior camera, Cruising Chauffeur can analyse the driver’s gaze pattern and decide whether or not they’re paying attention

Many of us know people prone to displays of artificial empathy, and now your car is about to get in on the act. As the end of the motorway approaches and the driver is prompted to take over the task of driving, the Cruising Chauffeur must determine whether he or she is present and ready to take control of the vehicle. To do this, Continental uses an interior camera and smart algorithms to analyse and interpret the driver’s gaze pattern. In a manner akin to ‘artificial empathy’, the vehicle decides how much attention the driver is paying to what is happening on the road, or whether their focus is on something entirely different. The the handover process may also, depending on the situation, apply other information strategies.

If the driver doesn’t take control of the wheel when prompted with visual and acoustic cues, Continental states that the Cruising Chauffeur can also “prompt the driver to take over more insistently using seat vibrations.” Should the person behind the wheel still fail to respond, the Cruising Chauffeur will initiate the minimum risk manoeuvre.

“Unfortunately, it is not at all rare that the reason the driver does not react when prompted to take over relates to health problems,” explains Ibro Muharemovic, head of the Cruising Chauffeur project at Continental. “At present, there is no solution for such situations. Only with automated driving will we be able to help the driver in emergency situations like this.”

Safety manager monitors sensors

A minimum risk manoeuvre isn’t only important if the driver fails to respond – it also provides a safer means of stopping in the event of a technical failure. Potential failures of the vehicle’s sensors are identified by a ‘safety manager’ that continuously monitors these systems. Elektrobit (EB), a subsidiary of Continental, assisted in the development of Cruising Chauffeur by delivering the EB tresos safety management solution. EB provides software solutions for safety-related electronic control units, equipment Continental describes as a “major building block” in the Cruising Chauffeur’s development. “This ability to perform a minimum risk manoeuvre is extremely important for automated driving, as we want to ensure a safe driving situation in all circumstances,” says Muharemovic. “We have now reached an advanced stage of development with the Cruising Chauffeur.”

The Cruising Chauffeur features a redundant design so that it can still perform the task of driving even if individual sensors aren’t operating. In addition to the separate networking of different types of sensors, this also includes having a Safety Domain Control Unit (SDCU) as a second automation path besides the ADCU. The SDCU itself also includes an automation solution. Therefore, if automation reaches a control limit or if one type of sensor fails to work for technical reasons, for example, then the minimum risk manoeuvre kicks in. A fallback mode to the brake system and steering is also installed in the vehicle.

Automated driving will be one of Continental’s key topics at the IAA 2017 in Germany this September. During the motor show, Continental will exhibit at hall 5.1., booth A07/A08.

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