Dr Nico Kampchen, Project Manager of Highly Automated Driving at BMW Group Research and Technology, has completed almost 5000 test kilometres in a highly automated BMW 5 Saloon which can brake, accelerate and pass other vehicles on its own whilst monitoring and adapting to traffic conditions.
BMW Group Research and Technology engineers have been working on the development of electronic co-pilots to support automated driving in specific situations, such as adaptive cruise control, BMW TrackTrainer tested on the race track and the Emergency Stop Assistant. Researchers are now ready to develop advanced driver assistance systems for the motorway.
The BMW 5 Saloon features intelligent software alongside vision assistance and environment detection systems. The automated assistance function for motorway journeys can be activated at the push of a button, after which the system will then automatically control acceleration and braking as well as safely overtaking slower vehicles. One of the greatest challenges early in the project was involved the reacting to vehicles merging on the motorway at exit and access points. To solve this, the prototype system allows merging vehicles to join the traffic and if required, can change lanes to provide the merging vehicle with adequate space.
To ensure the smooth functioning of the automated research vehicle, it features strategies to react appropriately in daily traffic situations. This is covered in two parts: first is pinpointing the position of the vehicle in its own lane and second, the car needs to be able to recognise all vehicles and other objects in its surroundings. This is achieved through the use of sensors including lidar, radar, ultra sound and video cameras. For precise assessment, two or more different measurement methods must be used in every direction. This makes sure that any potential weakness in one method is covered by the use of a second method.
The camera, localisation data from the GS and digital maps allow the vehicle to determine its location in the lane as well as receiving route characteristics such as the number of lanes on the motorway. This data is supported by the forward facing camera's data integrated into the lane departure warning system. Radar sensors from the adaptive cruise control system detects objects in front, to the side and the rear of the vehicle, supported by a laser scanner.
BMW TrackTrainer supports the automated driving assistance system in the autonomous driving on race courses. With the use of GPS and video data, the TrackTrainer can autonomously guide a vehicle along the racing line of a complete track for training. On 21st October 2009, the system was used to guide a vehicle around the North Loop of the Nurburgring. On 25th May 2011, the BMW TrackTrainer completed the Laguna Seca Raceway in California.
BMW's emergency stop assistant prototype is part of the SmartSenior Initiative of Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany which was launched in May 2009. The system features technologies which control and pinpoint the location of the vehicle and analyse the environment for added safety. If a situation arises where the driver loses control of the vehicle - for example a health emergency - the emergency stop assistant can detect the situation and then take control of the car in order to bring it to a safe stop. The system will activate hazard warning lights, monitor traffic and guide the vehicle onto the hard shoulder. An emergency call will automatically be placed to medical teams, a system based on the Advanced Emergency Call function from BMW ConnectedDrive, already available as a feature for production vehicles.
Research into automated vehicles and advanced assistance systems will continue to develop assistance functions of the future. The BMW i3 Concept features Parking Assist, which will park the vehicle without the driver's input, and Traffic Jam Assistant, which will accelerate and brake as well as steer automatically to follow the flow of the traffic. As long as the driver has one hand on the wheel, the system can assist in keeping the vehicle in its lane at speeds of up to 40km.
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