Why Semi-Autonomous Vehicles are Still Relevant
James Anderton posted on July 02, 2015 |
ZF TRW semi-automated system to use technology already implemented in millions of cars.

The recently amalgamated ZF TRW Tier 1 manufacturer held a demonstration of a semi-automated vehicle driving a test track in Berlin, Germany. The drivers experienced the Highway Driving Assist (HDA) feature, enabling automatic steering, braking, and acceleration for vehicles traveling 25mph to highway speeds. 

The demonstration highlighted the integration of ZF TRW’s AC1000 radar system, S-CAM 3 video sensors, Electrically Powered Steering Belt Drive (EPS BD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC). It also combined Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) technology with a Lane Centering Assist (LCA) system.

The ACC keeps the vehicle at a set speed until a slower vehicle appears in front of the car. It then automatically brakes or accelerates the vehicle to keep within a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead. Simultaneously, the forward-looking camera tracks the lane markings to keep the car in the center of the lane using the electric steering system, which the driver can override at any time.

The technology is also scalable and adaptable to various requirements said Peter Late, executive vice president at ZF TRW. “The same sensing hardware can be used for different functions to suit vehicle manufacturer requirements. For example, the driver assist hardware on the vehicle could also enable Emergency Steering Assist functionality.”

In a later stage, the company plans to implement a 360 degree sensor system, which will enable vehicles to automatically overtake each other. Therefore, a car could get around a particularly slow vehicle without requiring any action from the driver.

In an age of Google self-driving cars, what’s the big the deal about semi-autonomous driving? Well, the ZF TRW system uses sensor and actuator technology already present in millions of cars on the road today – costing a fraction of the price of fully automated systems. ACC systems are currently used with radar and laser measurement systems and the self-park feature currently offered in popular models uses steering actuators as an offshoot of electric power-steering technology.

The 25mph minimum speed limit requires drivers to take over the wheel completely at city intersections and with point-to-point navigation – two of the most difficult technical problems faced by today’s automated driving systems.

The minimum speed limit also means drivers still need to get out of driveways, navigate through neighbourhoods and move on to secondary roads or freeways themselves. However, as the driver has minimal input into the vehicle’s movements for much of the ride, it will be easier to become distracted when the car is ready to relinquish control.

As a tool to get drivers used to the vehicle taking the wheel, it can be seen as a positive forward step towards fully autonomous driving.

ZF TRW's HDA feature will begin seeing implementation in 2018.

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