BMW previews future driver assistance and connected vehicle developments at CES, including more automated driving
BMW selected the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas as a venue at which to preview future developments and new applications of connected vehicle technology for series-produced vehicles.
Among these are a prototype for highly automated driving; vehicle functions on an electronic wristwatch (Samsung) as part of a research application; camera-based assistance systems bringing enhanced safety into new vehicle classes; and a new Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance.
Automated driving. The BMW Group has created a new research prototype for highly automated driving which uses advanced control technology to demonstrate maximum safety up to the car’s dynamic limit. In addition, the prototype vehicle will highlight the effectiveness of a new generation of control systems on the closed-off track.
The prototype can pilot its way at high speeds and with precision on a slalom run between cones, adheres to a marked out circular course regardless of the friction coefficient of the road surface, and executes an obstacle-evading lane change. It makes optimum use of the potential of both engine and chassis. Even when deliberately provoked into oversteer—the clearest way of highlighting a vehicle’s dynamic limit—the highly automated prototype follows its path safely and along almost identical lines time after time.
While the control systems fitted to today’s vehicles restore stability by braking individual wheels, this new function introduces active and precisely calculated steering inputs into the mix. The research prototype reacts to fluctuating grip levels—the kind experienced in sudden hydroplaning—with the precision of an expert driver. The car continues along the predetermined target line, but does not attempt to maintain a preset speed under all circumstances.
Instead, it constantly factors in the condition of the road surface and responds intelligently as required. The sensors delivering the necessary information are the same as those fitted as standard on today’s vehicles and also send data to the DSC system, for example.
Understeer—where the car turns less than the driver intended—is dialed out by opening the steering. And a sliding rear end (oversteer) is caught using a carefully gauged combination of countersteering and brake inputs. The programmable electronic steering required to make this possible carries out targeted, rapid adjustments, and is fitted as standard on all current BMW cars.
Since February 2013 the BMW Group and Continental have been working together to take the next concrete steps towards the implementation of highly automated driving functions. This research partnership will run until the end of 2014 and involve the introduction of several test vehicles with close-to-production technology.
The BMW Group’s next major goal as part of this cooperation is to introduce highly automated driving on European highways and tackle the challenges that this will bring—such as crossing national borders and negotiating road construction.
BMW conducted fleet trials as part of its research activities into electric mobility, collecting valuable experience with the MINI E and BMW ActiveE. These trials produced important pointers for the ongoing development of electric mobility, and the new BMW i3 is the first model to benefit from these findings. This successful testing principle will also underpin a fleet trial for highly automated driving in 2015. By 2020, the technical foundations should be in place for a highway-based system that will allow highly automated driving in series- produced vehicles.
Wearable gear. The rapid spread of smartphones means that the internet, apps and digital services have long since become established elements of daily life. Wearable devices such as the new Samsung Galaxy Gear are continuing this trend. These devices are worn like wristwatches and display information from a linked smartphone directly onto the user’s wrist.
At CES 2014, BMW is presenting vehicle functions on the electronic wristwatch as part of a research application. The Samsung Galaxy Gear with BMW i Remote App functions has similar attributes to the BMW i Remote App, which keeps drivers connected with their BMW i3 at all times. The app also provides drivers the assistance they need outside the car.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear with BMW i Remote App functions offers information on the battery charge and available range of the first all-electric premium model in the compact class, as well as any departure times that have been inputted. The research application also shows whether the windows, doors and sunroof are closed and gives users the option of sending a navigation destination to the vehicle and adjusting the interior temperature in preparation for a journey.
Camera-based assistance systems. Advances in camera and video technology have allowed visual detection to serve as a basis for modern assistance systems for some time now. For example, series-produced cars are already available with a camera (mounted in the center of the windshield in the base of the rear-view mirror) which delivers data for the Lane Departure Warning and traffic sign recognition systems.
The Collision Warning system and Pedestrian Warning with city braking function, Traffic Jam Assistant and camera-based Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function work exclusively on the basis of visual detection. They dispense with additional and costly radar technology, but offer similar functions. These safety systems can therefore also be extended to vehicle classes where demand for sophisticated systems has traditionally been low.
Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function operate in the typical city speed range between 10 and 60 km/h (6 and 37 mph). If the system detects a pedestrian or a stationary vehicle, it emits an audible and visible signal to warn the driver, and primes the brakes. If the driver fails to react by stepping on the brake or by steering away from the hazard, the system acts autonomously to reduce vehicle speed.
With the mono camera, Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function use the same proven basic technology as other assistance systems such as Lane Departure Warning.
The camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function eliminates the need for drivers to constantly make minor corrections to their following distance and speed when driving in heavy traffic on highways, on dual carriageways and, especially, in urban environments.
With its ability to detect vehicles up to a distance of 120 meters (nearly 400 feet) ahead, the cruise control system is able to respond proactively. Operating at speeds between 0 and 140 km/h (87 mph), it maintains a preselected speed and a preselected following distance from traffic in front. These functions—including brief stops—are performed via the electronic engine and braking control systems. The system can also reliably detect if another vehicle has come to a sudden stop.
In free-flowing traffic, automatic deceleration by the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function is confined to gentle braking. If the situation demands more vigorous braking, the system issues visual and audible warnings to prompt the driver himself to intervene.
In comparison, in heavy, stop-go traffic, the automatic deceleration also includes more vigorous braking, for maximum driver comfort. This ensures that system functionality is matched to the special demands of such situations with their constant fluctuations in speed.
The system settings chosen by the driver are displayed in the instrument cluster, and can be quickly scanned at a glance. Drivers can intervene in the operation of the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function at any time, and remain responsible for the safe control of the vehicle at all times.
The Traffic Jam Assistant operates at speeds from 0 to 40 km/h (25 mph) and offers optimal support in dense highway traffic. Just like the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, this system—which does not deactivate after a brief stop—maintains a given following distance and relative speed to traffic in front.
Along with longitudinal control, the Traffic Jam Assistant also provides lateral control. That is to say, it steers the car as well, via the electronic steering system, keeping the vehicle precisely in its lane.
The Traffic Jam Assistant only functions in conjunction with the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function. The two systems, which are finely dovetailed, support the driver all the way from standstill up to speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph).
The Traffic Jam Assistant begins operating when a preceding vehicle is detected. A further requirement is a pair of lane markings to allow the vehicle to identify its own traffic lane. Once the system has been activated, the Traffic Jam Assistant begins functioning any time the vehicle slows to a speed within the system’s operating range, for example due to road congestion. Once the traffic has cleared, the driver must first authorize higher speeds either by operating the accelerator or by pressing the RES button on the multifunction steering wheel, which hands over control to the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function.
Although drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel even when the Traffic Jam Assistant is in operation, they are nevertheless free, in these relatively non-challenging situations, to devote their attention to monitoring and navigating the traffic around them. In situations where the requirements for safe operation of the Traffic Jam Assistant are not met—e.g. when negotiating narrow lanes through construction, or if the driver does not have hands on the steering wheel—the Assistant prompts the driver to take over control again.
Modern camera-based systems have advantages over purely radar-based applications when it comes to recognition of stationary obstacles. A wide camera angle, moreover, enables reliable detection of objects pulling in or out at the edge of the driver’s field of vision. At the same time, however, camera-based systems do require certain light conditions. These systems are already available in the BMW i3.
New Parking Assistant. The new Parking Assistant is based on ultrasound sensors. The new Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance offers customers significantly greater comfort and safety. Not only—as with existing systems—does it use the ultrasound sensors to find parking spaces parallel to the road and take over the parking of the car via the electronically controlled steering (lateral guidance); the assistance system now also switches between the forward and reverse gears of the automatic gearbox and allows the car to pull away and brake automatically (longitudinal guidance).
These functions are underpinned by an interface to the gearbox and the electronically controlled accelerator and brake pedal. All the driver has to do is hold down the button activating the new assistance system and monitor the automatic parking procedure.
The functions of systems like the new Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance and the Traffic Jam Assistant go much further than existing assistance functions designed to ease the strain on drivers at the wheel. With their range of part-automated functions, they already lighten the driver’s workload much more significantly than conventional systems. Highly automated vehicles, meanwhile, can take over more of the driver’s tasks at a given time.
All the systems performing these partly automated and highly automated roles are grouped under the BMW ActiveAssist banner and form a new branch of technology within BMW ConnectedDrive.