Traffic in cities is often
congested and unpredictable. Cars share the streets with bicycles, motorcycles,
trucks, and buses. In a country like India, the traffic is even worse. Cars
even share the streets with jaywalkers, cows, stray dogs, three-wheelers,
juggads and what not.
It is not unusual to see cars
double parked and pedestrians stepping out into the road without warning. The
prospect of vehicles negotiating these hazards completely autonomously is
almost unimaginable. “Autonomous driving is coming to cities, too. The level of
automation is being gradually increased, starting out with driver assistance
systems,” says Dr. Dietrich Manstetten, who works in research and advance
engineering at Robert Bosch GmbH. Together with his colleague Dr. Lutz Bürkle
and a team of 11 Bosch researchers, he is working on the technology needed to
achieve this as part of the UR:BAN research initiative. The researchers have
made great progress: “One of the things we’ve taught the cars is to predict
what is going to happen next, and help drivers take evasive action whenever
there is a threat of collision with a pedestrian,” Bürkle says.
UR:BAN (acronym from the
German for urban space: user-friendly assistance systems and network
management) is a publicly funded joint project. It brings together 31 partners
from the automotive, automotive-supply, electronics, communications, and
software industries, as well as universities, research institutes, and cities.
Evasive steering support prevents up to 58pc of collisions with
A prerequisite for automated
driving functions is to have sensors that reliably monitor the vehicle’s
surroundings. “Only when we know what’s going on around the car can we
determine the correct driving strategy,” Bürkle says. One component Bosch
relies on for environment recognition is its stereo video camera, which can
already be found in production vehicles. Mounted behind the windshield near the
rear-view mirror, the camera monitors the area to the front of the test
vehicle, and relays this information to a computer in the trunk. This computer
analyzes the data more than ten times a second. But Bosch does not stop there.
“Using smart algorithms, we get the computer to calculate how the environment
is changing and where objects are headed,” Bürkle says. In other words, the
Bosch technology not only detects the current position of pedestrians and
cyclists, but also predicts where they will be in a second’s time. This
presents new opportunities for pedestrian protection.
Based on this, the Bosch
researchers have developed an assistance system that intervenes to prevent a
collision with a pedestrian. At vehicle speeds up to 50 kmph, the system helps
drivers brake and take evasive action. If braking alone is no longer enough to
prevent a collision with a pedestrian who suddenly walks out in front of the
car, the assistant instantaneously computes an evasive manoeuvre. As soon as
drivers start using the steering wheel to take evasive action, the system kicks
in to support the steering manoeuvre.
“According to our studies,
provided the driver reacts at least half a second before a potential collision,
the assistance system can help avoid it in 58 pc of cases,” Bürkle says. But it
is even better to avoid situations such as this in the first place. Critical
situations arise when drivers are distracted and not looking at the road.
Bosch’s solution to this is called driver observation. “By monitoring drivers’
line of sight, tiny cameras in the vehicle’s interior can tell whether their
eyes are on the road,” Manstetten says. This makes it possible to warn
distracted drivers in good time before the traffic situation becomes risky. In this
context, Bosch believes that it helps to place indicators in the instrument
clusters or an LED display on the dashboard directly in the driver’s field of
Insights from the project feed into work on automated driving
Cities hold further challenges
as places in which to drive. These include making turns and driving through
tight spaces. While turning into a street, it is easy to overlook pedestrians
who want to cross that street from the right or the left. Manstetten, Bürkle,
and their colleagues have developed an assistant for just these situations. It
recognises crossing pedestrians and brings the car to a stop before an accident
can happen. The assistance system for tight spaces goes even further. It manoeuvres
the car through tight spaces such as streets where cars are double parked.
Using images from the stereo video camera, the computer calculates the path the
car should travel. It then controls the electrical power steering and ensures
that the car manoeuvres through a tight space unscathed. The Bosch system also
recognizes when a space is too tight to pass through, warning the driver or
stopping the car in time before the exterior rear-view mirrors or fenders are
The insights that Bosch gains
from the work of Manstetten, Bürkle, and the team of researchers in the UR:BAN
project feed directly into the development of automated driving. Since 2011,
the supplier of technology and services has focused this work at two locations:
Abstatt, in Germany, and Palo Alto in California. Bosch has successfully been
driving a number of automated test vehicles in normal traffic on the German A81
and U.S. I280 freeways since the beginning of 2013. The initial development
goal is to deliver the highway pilot. From 2020, it is expected that vehicles
featuring this Bosch technology will be capable of highly automated freeway
driving without the need for constant driver supervision.
One project, one goal, and 31 partners from science and industry
The UR:BAN project’s aim is to
develop driver assistance and traffic management systems for cities. Driver
assistance systems are an essential step on the way to automated driving.
UR:BAN is receiving some 40 million euros of funding from the German Federal
Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The project’s overall costs total
approximately 80 million euros.
Source: Bosch / Motown India
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