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2014 ITS World Congress: Tech Tidbits from the Trade Show for Autonomy

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/11/2014 Frank Markus

The Intelligent Transportation Systems folks host an annual convention that comes to North America every three years, and this year it filled the same Cobo Hall expo space that the Detroit auto show inhabits each January. Connected cars, aka V2V and V2I (vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure), are looming on the horizon -- the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Begin Implementation of Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Technology on August 18, 2014 -- and fully autonomous vehicles will be hot on their heels. All the companies preparing for that bold future were hawking their wares in Cobo Hall. Below are the concepts that caught my eye, and watch this space for my upcoming blog covering ITS sessions discussing the legal hurdles facing autonomous and connected cars.

GM Autonomous Drive

© Provided by MotorTrend The General had an Opel Insignia (our Buick Regal's Euro twin) outfitted with six LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensors, a forward camera, standard adaptive cruise control, and GPS navigation, plus vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication technologies installed (those last two in a roof antenna). All of these items are connected to provide 360-degree awareness and object detection. Climb in, program a destination, press a green chauffeur button to activate autonomy, and off the car goes. Steering inputs felt pretty jerky, indicating that there's still quite a lot of development to be done before passengers will mistake this for a human chauffeur. Our "driver" was alerted to the presence of a skateboarder, a biker, and a pedestrian using dynamic short-range communications (DSRC) technology, so as to watch out in case additional evasive maneuvers were required.


Honda Highly Automated Vehicle

© Provided by MotorTrend Honda displayed an RLX equipped with a "super cruise" of its own, capable of automated freeway entry, exit, lane changes (just signal, and it checks the blind-spot and moves), and other sophisticated maneuvers. The prototype system uses LiDAR, mid- and long-range radar, GPS, gyroscopes, two-dimensional scanning, a stereo camera, and other front and rear cameras. The driver plans a route, touches a button, and if all sensors are happy, the car takes over. If any sensor loses its targets, control is handed back to the driver in a moment's notice, so no sleeping! This happened at least twice, when a construction crew suddenly appeared in our lane when rounding a curve, and when merging into thick traffic. As in the Opel, lane-change maneuvers felt robotically abrupt. Honda also demonstrated Vehicle-2-Pedestrian/bicycle and V2-Motorcycle technology using technology. The aforementioned bogies would need to be carrying DSRC-compatible smartphones, which communicate over a distance of roughly 1000 feet.


Honda Virtual Tow

© Provided by MotorTrend This good-Samaritan technology is set up so that if a driver becomes incapacitated, due to heart attack, diabetic blackout, etc., the car pulls safely to the side of the road and stops, then sends out an SOS beacon. Emergency services determine the appropriate facility to send the stricken driver to. Then another driver receives the beacon, pulls in front, confirms it will escort the vehicle, receives the info about where to take the car, and electronically "tows" the stricken driver to help. A thank-you text is then sent to the Good Sam. For cars already equipped with adaptive cruise and lane-keep assist, the only added equipment needed is the DSRC hardware and software.


SwRI ATV -- Battlefield-Tested Autonomous Army Vehicle

© Provided by MotorTrend The Southwest Research Institute showed a Polaris ATV upfitted with some $300,000 in sensor gear (eight stereo-vision cameras, GPS, radar, LiDAR, and cameras for mine detection). Built in conjunction with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), this little baby has reportedly carried out some secret missions in Afghanistan autonomously. SwRI maintains a fleet of autonomous vehicles as well as a 1.2-mile test track and a dedicated short-range communications-equipped roadside infrastructure across our 1,200-acre facility.


BMW-GEWI VMS2Dash

© Provided by MotorTrend The Bavarians teamed up with traffic information collector (TIC) experts GEWI to bring traffic warning sign information into the vehicle. Various state departments of transportation beam information to permanent and movable signs, and this VMS2Dash system taps into that feed with an Internet connection. It is then relayed to the car via a new TPEG (Transport Protocol Experts Group) real-time traffic-information delivery service that can be carried across wireless Internet and digital radio networks (a step up from today's RDS radio data service). Benefits: Info that might scroll across two pages is displayed in its entirety for ease of reading, the info is route-specific so you don't see messages that don't pertain to your route of travel, and the source and time of posting are included. A history button even allows you to bring up the last few signs you passed. New BMWs are prepped for the service, which currently requires that an app be loaded into the BMW Connected Drive app. The system caches at least 20 miles' worth of signs in case of a temporary loss of connectivity. The app is in testing, and talks with the various state DOTs are ongoing.


IRD VectorSense

© Provided by MotorTrend Saskatoon-based International Road Dynamics Inc. showed a cool new road-sensor system capable of determining not only vehicle weight and axle count (for tolling purposes), vehicle speed, and the type of tire on each axle -- single, dual, or the new "super single" tires. It can even tell if said tires are under- or overinflated, so that truckers can't just hide a blown tire at an inside position out of view and continue through weigh stations undetected in an unsafe condition. The system consists of an aluminum extrusion inside which radar waves are bouncing. Sensors can detect a thousandth of an inch deflections and map said-deflections as shown. It's in use at four test sites now.


Traffic Monitoring

© Provided by MotorTrend States have hundreds of traffic monitoring cameras, and nowhere near enough eyeballs to monitor them, so TrafficVision sells software that analyzes traffic speed and can detect accidents. Miovision is in the same line of work, but also offers to provide its own temporary video camera setups that can be used to replace human observers when surveying traffic patterns at an intersection or along a stretch of roadway. SpeedInfo currently builds solar-powered radar units with wireless SIM cards to sample average speeds for state departments of transportation. The company is adding infrared camera service that can provide the same info (and yes, electric vehicle tires are typically warm enough for the camera to "see"), adding the capability of monitoring pavement temperature and snapping normal photos of stopped traffic to see if there's an accident. The system is now in beta testing in Ohio.


IAV App-Adaptor

© Provided by MotorTrend Most new cars can connect to your phone and play its music or nav instructions, but IAV is working to help your phone power various aspects of a car. IAV's example: You climb into a rental car, pair your phone, and it determines what features the car has available. If possible, it programs the car's built-in radio with your presets; its navigation system with your favorite places; its phone feature instantly with your phone book and recent-calls listed; and its seat and mirror memory positions with your preferred setup, etc. The App-Adapter works as a gateway, firewall, manager of mobile terminals, and multi-user manager with an inexpensive Bluetooth CAN-bus connection.


Bonus Tech: Days after the ITS World Congress, I attended a TRW tech demonstration held on the very day the safety and chassis systems supplier was purchased by ZF. While the engineers dodged business-reporter questions, they were happy to discuss these interesting concepts:

Integrated Brake Controller

© Provided by MotorTrend With automated emergency braking systems expected to proliferate in pursuit of the vaunted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ ranking, and with today's high-efficiency engines generating less and less natural vacuum, expect more cars to move away from vacuum-boosted power braking. TRW's alternative generates hydraulic boost in a large plunger moved by a simple electrical ball-ramp. It works like many brake-by-wire systems, with a pedal-force simulator (and a fail-safe direct hydraulic connection), but the ball-ramp is said to build pressure much more quickly than current ESC/ABS type systems, which must draw fluid from the master cylinder and then pressurize it. Such systems can also assist electric parking brake actuation, by fully pressurizing the affected calipers to ease the burden on the electric motor, which then must simply retain the pressure. Targeted for mid-2018 production, it provides noticeable weight and packaging benefits, and with volume production should eventually become cost-neutral.


Electric Parking Brake for HD

© Provided by MotorTrend The manufacturing simplification of not having to route foot-pedal cables to the rear axle is a huge driver for electric parking brakes. To date, such systems have not been capable of shouldering the load of heavy-duty pickups (the Mercedes ML-Class is the largest current-production application of EPB). TRW's new system can generate 5620 pounds of self-locking clamping force per corner, which is sufficient to park a rig with an 18,500-pound gross combined weight rating. The system uses a simple electric motor like one you'd find in a DeWalt electric drill, spinning through a "transmission" that provides 380:1 multiplication in top spec (lighter-duty ones are 150:1). The equipment weighs roughly 15 pounds per corner.


Airbag Advances

© Provided by MotorTrend Why must a passenger airbag come out of the dash? If it came out of the roof, it might save a lot of testing for occupants out of position and leaning on the dash. Just such a design recently started production for use on the Citroen C4 Cactus. The roof location typically requires about 10 percent more volume, but other innovations have combined to reduce volume by a similar amount, so it's basically a wash. TRW also showed off its new fabric housing for the passenger airbag, which dramatically drops the mass of that part. And innovative weaving technology called X-tether is used to keep side-curtain airbags curtain-shaped with threads that connect the inner and outer surfaces in an X-pattern. This saves having to sew multiple panels together, which can introduce weak points. X-tether bags are woven in a single (slow-moving) loom operation.

2014 ITS World Congress© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 ITS World Congress
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