Researchers Developing “Smart” Wheel System for Hybrids and EVs
11 June 2007
Scientists at the University of Portsmouth (UK) are developing a novel real-time software-based control and diagnostics system using new artificial intelligence algorithms which, in combination with an in-wheel motor, will provide a new drive and control mechanism for hybrid and electric vehicles.
The “smart” wheel is being developed under a £200K (US$394,000) Department of Trade and Industry-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with electronic motor specialist PML Flightlink.
PML Flightlink and its partner Synergy Innovations last year unveiled an in-wheel, plug-in series hybrid conversion of a MINI at the British Motor Show, the MINI QED. The QED currently uses four 750 Nm brushless permanent motors in its wheels, a 21 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack and a 250cc two-cylinder, four-stroke engine as the genset. The car serves as a testbed and technology demonstrator. (Earlier post.)
The University of Portsmouth scientists are providing the artificial intelligence systems for the wheels on the car. The wheels use the AI system to learn as the car is being driven, making calculations and adjustments according to travelling speed and road conditions.
Conventional wisdom says you can’t reinvent the wheel. We have done just that. We have taken the wheel, given it brains and the ability to think and learn. It’s a huge breakthrough.—David Brown of the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Industrial Research
The AI system controls the suspension, steering and braking systems, adapting to bends in the road, potholes and other potential hazards, and compensating by adjusting the car’s reactions. The information is retained in memory and used the next time the car encounters similar road conditions. The car is learning as it drives and adapting its performance accordingly.
Traditional suspension means the vehicle dips when the wheels detect poor road surfaces and you get a bumpy ride, while a tight corner means the drag will slow the vehicle down. Electronic traction control and suspension will counterbalance this kind of drop and drag effect but the driver won’t even know it’s there. It means a faster car but a safer one.—David Brown
“An Improved Active Suspension Model for Attitute Control of Electric Vehicles” (Accepted paper); Cao, J., Liu, H., Li, P., Brown, D.J. and Dimirovski, G.; IEEE Internationnal Conference on Mechatronics and Automation (IEEE-ICMA), August 3-5, 2007, Harbin, PR China
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