BMW Group displays Highly Automated Driving


The BMW is once again showing why it is the Ultimate Driving Machine, as Motorway A9 from Munich to Nuremberg shows the usual high volume of traffic, but despite the stress of the situation, the driver sits calm and relaxed behind the wheel, because the automobile is doing the driving. It's BMW's automated car.

Would you be calm behind the wheel of a vehicle with highly automated driving technology? BMW Group’s Research and Technology believes you will be, when driving an automated car. For the record, a car that is highly automated means it brakes, accelerates and passes other vehicles on its own, while also monitoring and adapting to the prevailing traffic conditions.

According to the latest media release from BMW Group, Dr. Nico Kämpchen, Project Manager of Highly Automated Driving at BMW Group Research and Technology, has already completed nearly 5,000 test kilometers with his team. In order to offer drivers comfortable and safe vehicles in the future, equipped with the most modern assistance systems available, the engineers at BMW Group Research and Technology have been working for many years on the development of electronic co-pilots to support automated driving in specific situations – for example the BMW TrackTrainer tested on the race track, as well as adaptive cruise control (ACC) and the Emergency Stop Assistant.

To further understand the potential offered by these systems, as well as their limitations, researchers are ready to take their next major step: developing advanced driver assistance systems for the motorway.

To accomplish this, researchers have equipped a BMW 5 Saloon with intelligent software as well as vision assistance and environment detection systems. The advanced automated assistance function for motorway journeys can be activated with the push of a button. From this point on, the prototype system can autonomously control acceleration and braking, and it can safely pass slower vehicles.

One of the greatest challenges early in the project involved reacting to vehicles merging on to the motorway at exit and access points – but even this problem could be solved with a cooperative approach. The prototype system reacts to the situation by allowing the merging vehicles to join the traffic flow, and it can even change lanes giving the merging vehicles adequate space to enter traffic safely. This is possible up to a speed of 130 km/h, but in compliance with current traffic regulations regarding speed limits and such things as prohibited passing zones.

“This is an entirely new situation and experience for the driver – it is a strange feeling handing over complete control of the car to an autonomous system. But after a few minutes of experiencing the smooth, sovereign and safe driving style, drivers and passengers begin to relax somewhat and trust the independent system,” says Nico Kämpchen, Project Manager for Highly Automated Driving at BMW Group Research and Technology.“ Nevertheless, the driver is still responsible for the situation at all times and must constantly keep an eye on traffic and the surroundings.”

Imagine Cars with Strategies

To ensure that the automated research vehicle functions smoothly and with agility in real traffic, the car must be endowed with strategies to react appropriately in daily traffic situations. The basis for these strategies is comprised of two parts: first, pinpointing the position of the vehicle in its own lane is essential and second, the car must be able to clearly recognize all vehicles and objects in its nearest surroundings. This is accomplished through the redundant fusion of various sensor technologies such as lidar, radar, ultra sound and video cameras that monitor the environment around the automobile.

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