Leading companies from the automotive industry as well as from the telecommunications and software development sector are today presenting their results at the halfway stage in one of Germany’s most important road safety projects - AKTIV. The declared aim of this research initiative launched back in September 2006 and running until August 2010 is to prevent accidents in future by further enhancing active safety, relieving drivers and harmonising traffic flows. Volkswagen AG is one of the partners of the initiative sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
AKTIV is the abbreviation used for the research initiative “Adaptive und kooperative Technologien für den intelligenten Verkehr” (“Adaptive and cooperative technologies for intelligent transport”). The research initiative itself is subdivided into two main projects: “Assistance Systems / Active Safety” (AS) and “Traffic Management”. Running alongside these main topics, is also the project “Cooperative Cars” (CoCar).
With an investment volume of 37.5 million euros, “Assistance Systems” is the largest project within this research initiative. Almost half of which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economics. Besides “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control”, this project also sets out to examine the four topics of “Active Emergency Stopping”, “Traffic Junction Assistance”, “Safety for Pedestrians and Cyclists” and “Road Safety and Attention”. The final analysis is scheduled for 31 August 2010.
Within this project, Volkswagen AG is dedicating itself specifically to the field of “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” (IQF). This technical term describes the tangible progress made in terms of safety: “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” generally denotes track-holding systems such as the “Lane Assist” system recently presented for the new Passat CC, which entails a camera located in the area of the rain sensor detecting the road markings. If these are present, the system is “activated” and gently countersteers as soon as the car moves too close in the direction of the side or centre strip. In the event of an emergency, the system thus provides an important additional element of safety. And not without good reason: Mistakes involving vehicles straying from their proper lane are amongst the most frequent causes of serious accidents.
The “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” system developed within the scope of AKTIV for traffic of the future is, in terms of its range of functions, quite a few more steps ahead of the “Lane Assist” system. The predictive and continuously operating system is designed to support drivers in keeping their vehicles on track, whilst also regulating their distance and speed. By taking account of objects in the vehicle’s immediate surroundings – i.e.: roadwork barriers or other road users – this special “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” system is even available in congestion or when driving along narrow lanes through roadworks.
The system works within the speed range from 0 to 180 km/h and makes functions possible which, up until only recently, would have seemed unimaginable. For instance, steering assistance when swerving to avoid a hazard. And that is by no means all. “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” even detects when the lane narrows, only one road marking is present or if a particularly wide vehicle is to be overtaken. The system also helps drivers to safely negotiate bends. In other words, this driver assistance system reacts to its environment.
This lane keeping system is based on the reliable and efficient scanning of the vehicle’s environment. The key source of data are the video images recorded by a stereo camera, such as the one also used for “Lane Assist”. In addition, the system also incorporates digital maps, location determination via GPS as well as signals from the radar sensors directed forwards, backwards and sideways. On the basis of this comprehensive set of data, the “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” system can respond dynamically and, in doing so, adjust the degree of assistance in line with the driver’s level of attention and to the quality of the scanned data. And this is precisely the objective of the AKTIV sub-project “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” - namely to provide "continuous support for drivers to help them keep their vehicles on track”.
Following the launch of AKTIV back in 2006 and the expansion of the “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” research project, the engineers at Volkswagen are now capable of constructing experimental vehicles and – as the focus of the second stage of AKTIV – of testing the “Integrated Lateral Vehicle Control” functions in these prototypes. Just how quickly marketable technologies can emerge from such future-oriented projects is demonstrated by “Lane Assist”. In 2004, this system was still undergoing tests as the “Lane Departure Warning” system. It is now possible to order it for the Passat CC.
“Roadworks Pilot” helps to avoid congestion
“Adaptive Cruise Control” (or ACC for short) is already available for numerous vehicles from Volkswagen AG. “ACC” is in turn a building block for a further research project, whose status quo has also been presented today within the scope of AKTIV. We are talking about the “Roadworks Pilot” This system has the aim making traffic flow more smoothly upstream, within and downstream from roadworks with the aid of onboard systems and car-to-car communication facilities in a bid to prevent tail backs. In a project preceding this, it has already been possible to demonstrate that by adapting the driving behaviour in line with a particular traffic situation reduces the probability of tail backs and stabilises the traffic flow.
The technical basis for the “Roadworks Pilot” from Volkswagen AG is provided, as outlined earlier, by the “ACC” already available today and the future car-to-car communication technology. The background: Today’s systems look out for the nearest vehicle, but not the whole traffic picture as it were. An example: Neither the driver nor the vehicle have any information about a set of roadworks located three kilometres ahead. It is precisely this information that car-to-car communication technology will supply in future. This involves using the “knowledge” of those vehicles that are already passing through the roadworks. Using modern technology, they “scan” such factors as the number of lanes, the course of the roadway, the maximum speed allowed and the traffic density. Within this research project, these data are now evaluated with the aid of car-to-car communication technology and via intelligent infrastructure installations (road side units) before being transmitted to all the vehicles. They “know now” what awaits the drivers and display this information for them in the form of a “traffic horizon”.
At the same time, the “Roadworks Pilot” also provides route recommendations or automatically regulates the vehicle’s distance and speed. Depending on the traffic situation (and this is what is new compared with previous systems), the car approaches the roadworks with the appropriate degree of caution, drives through the narrow section of road in a stable line of vehicles (without sudden braking, etc.) and accelerates away again at the end of the roadworks swiftly up to cruising speed.