Highly automated driving on highways is no longer just a dream, but a reality, thanks to automotive manufacturer Continental. The brand started testing automated driving systems on public roads back in 2012 and now has a global fleet of development vehicles.
The Highly Automated Driving (HAD) system gives vehicles the ability to take over driving on highways in accordance with national traffic regulations. At the end of a highway, control is transferred back to the driver; the handover is initiated by a state-of-the-art human machine interface. If the driver fails to respond when prompted to take over, the technology identifies a safe place to stop and pulls over using a minimum risk manoeuvre.
This intelligent function will be part of the system when it is ready for production in 2020, well in advance of many government plans in the region to develop smart cities and boost autonomous driving. While, for instance, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s goal is to make 25 percent of all journeys driverless by 2030, in Saudi Arabia plans for the US$100bn King Abdullah Economic City have been remodelled to better accommodate driverless cars in recognition of potential future demand.
“The automated system brings a two-fold benefit when it comes to safety,” said Ralph Lauxmann, Head of Systems & Technology in Continental’s Chassis & Safety division. “Firstly, automation avoids human error in regular operation while also offering a comfortable ride. Secondly, it includes an additional fall-back mode that is not included in conventional vehicles. If the driver is unable to take control of the wheel again, then the technology safely brings the car to a stop.”
When the HAD system is activated, data from multiple cameras, radar and LiDAR sensors are analysed in a central control unit known as the Assisted & Automated Driving Control Unit (ADCU). Combined with a high-resolution map, the system recognizes all moving and static objects as well as the road layout. The vehicle’s position is continuously monitored to enable the system to change lanes and overtake automatically.
Ibro Muharemovic, Head of Advanced Engineering at Continental, explained: “Unfortunately, it is relatively common that health problems are the reason that the driver does not react to a handover request. At present, there is no solution for such situations. Highly automated driving will allow us to help the driver in similar emergency situations.”
A minimum risk manoeuvre is important not only if the driver fails to respond, but also in the event of a possible technical failure. Potential sensor failures are identified by a continuously running monitoring level known as the safety manager.
Continental’s HAD system has a redundant design which means that it is still able to perform the task of driving even if individual sensors fail. In addition to separate networking of different types of sensors, this includes a Safety Domain Control Unit as a second automation path besides the ADCU. If the system reaches a control limit or if one type of sensor fails to work a minimum risk manoeuvre will be initiated. There is also a redundancy mode installed for the vehicle’s braking and steering systems.