Toward An Autonomous Future: Bendix Explores the Technological Requirements for Highly

July 6, 2018
Equip a truck with sensor-driven full stability, radar-powered forward collision mitigation, and camera-enabled lane keeping assist, and you’re pretty close to having a fully autonomous truck, right?

Equip a truck with sensor-driven full stability, radar-powered forward collision mitigation, and camera-enabled lane keeping assist, and you’re pretty close to having a fully autonomous truck, right?

Not so fast.

“It’s not enough to simply have multiple systems and capabilities on a vehicle – taking further significant steps toward safer, Highly Automated Driving (HAD) systems will mean relying on deep integration and multi-level redundancies,” explained Richard Beyer, vice president, engineering and R&D, at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC. “If an individual system or component fails, there has to be an architecture in place so that the overall system can continue to fully function until either the vehicle is in a safe state, or the driver can assume full control.

“That’s what we’re talking about at Bendix when we discuss things like the stability system assisting with brake steering, or an electronic parking brake assisting with bringing the vehicle to a controlled stop.”

Beyer, who led three sessions at this month’s Intelligent Braking Systems USA international conference in Detroit, describes complex challenges on the path toward higher-level driver assistance systems — but said Bendix has already begun meeting them head-on. Bendix is the North American leader in the development and manufacture of active safety, air management, and braking system technologies for commercial vehicles.

“Hey, You’re Going to Hit a Car in 2 Seconds – Take Over”

The SAE International definitions of driving automation capabilities range from no driving automation (Level 0) to full automation (Level 5). Levels 0-2 require a human driver monitoring the driving environment but can include driver assistance technologies such as full stability and collision mitigation. At these levels, a driver is fully responsible for the vehicle.

Levels 3-5 involve significantly increased automation, to the point where the driver is no longer responsible for continuously monitoring the driving environment. A human may be in the driver’s seat, but free to handle other tasks — and they are not continuously responsible for the vehicle’s operation.

“Levels 3, 4, and 5 are what we call Conditional Automation, High Automation, and Full Automation — and since they all involve, to some degree, the vehicle controlling itself without driver monitoring, they require system redundancies that aren’t necessary at the lower levels,” Beyer said.

He continued, “If a Level 3 vehicle operating in a specific autonomous situation like highway piloting has a power steering failure, for instance, it still needs to be able to operate itself into a safe position. When you’re operating at a level where you’ve taken the driver out of the loop for any period of time, you can’t have a system where the failure mode just says, ‘Hey, you’re going to hit a car in 2 seconds — take over.’”

Today’s Tech and the Next Steps

The technologies of Bendix’s flagship advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), Bendix Wingman Fusion, already offer some signposts pointing down the path to higher levels of automation.

Using forward-facing camera and radar, as well as wheel-end sensors, Fusion combines and cross-checks information from multiple sources to deliver enhanced rear-end collision mitigation, alerts when speeding, and braking on stationary vehicles. Fusion also helps drivers avoid additional crash situations, including rollovers and loss-of-control, because it’s built on the foundational full-stability technology of Bendix ESP. Fusion’s camera is powered by the Mobileye System-on-Chip EyeQ processor with state-of-the-art vision algorithms.

Fusion’s next evolution, which is already being demonstrated to fleets, will offer highway departure braking and multi-lane automatic emergency braking, along with strengthened collision mitigation and braking capabilities to more effectively reduce vehicle speeds in hazardous situations.

Building on the current lane departure technology of Wingman Fusion, the new highway departure braking capability will alert the driver and apply brakes if the system determines the vehicle has left the roadway. And multi-lane automatic emergency braking means that if Fusion is applying the brakes due to a vehicle in the lane ahead, and the driver switches to an adjacent lane, the system will continue applying the brakes if it detects another car ahead in the new lane.

Additionally, the next Fusion iteration will be able to link with the forthcoming next generation of Bendix BlindSpotter Side Object Detection System, integrating data from the side-radar unit and enabling additional features to help drivers mitigate side-swipe and blind spot crashes.

Bendix Intellipark automatic electronic parking brake technology replaces the manual air parking brake with easy-to-apply electronic switches. It works through interlocks installed in critical areas, such as the seat, seat belt, or cab door — engaging the brake if the driver leaves the seat or opens the door without setting it first.

Looking ahead, iHSA (intelligent Hydraulic Steering Assist) technology from Knorr-Bremse Steering Systems will also have a decisive part to play: iHSA is a hydraulic steering system with electronic actuation specially developed to meet the demands of automated driving in commercial vehicles.

“With today’s collision mitigation systems, the response to an object ahead is to take the speed down — what we call longitudinal control of the vehicle – whether by braking or dethrottling,” Beyer said. “Future systems will be able to analyze and assist in lateral vehicle control in those situations, steering the truck into a collision avoidance path.”

Even so, no technology on the road today — or for the foreseeable future — is more important to vehicle and road safety than the presence of safe, alert men and women behind the wheel, practicing safe driving habits and receiving the support of proactive, ongoing training. Advanced driver assistance technologies are not intended to enable or encourage aggressive driving, and responsibility for safe vehicle operation remains with the driver at all times.

Within 20 Centimeters

Beyer describes the integrated technology needed to achieve the upper levels of automation as Truck Motion Control. While built on current technological concepts, Truck Motion Control involves linking these systems at a much deeper level to create smart and cost-efficient safety redundancies. It can also mean extra operational layers, like separated power supplies and additional sensors.

Lane-keeping technology, for instance, combines camera sensors with the capability of a torque overlay to steer the vehicle when needed. To reach Level 3-5 automation, that steering assistance requires a backup: brake steering.

“It’s like a much finer version of the individual wheel-end brake activation you get with full stability,” Beyer said. “In testing, even in maneuvers on ice and snow, we’ve actually failed the power steering on a truck, and with no perceivable difference behind the wheel, the system kept the vehicle within 20 centimeters of its planned trajectory.”

Another common test – one where there is a significant difference in the surface friction between a vehicle’s right and left wheel tracks — also illustrates the importance of evolving today’s systems into comprehensive Truck Motion Control. In this situation, if a current combination of evasive maneuver steering assist and forward collision mitigation technology detects a vehicle ahead, the individual commands from those systems will cause the vehicle to leave its lane. But when steering and braking are integrated into Truck Motion Control, the vehicle will stop more quickly and remain within its lane.

A Different Kind of Traffic Jam

“As complex and advanced as today’s safety systems are, all of their functions and features are still just building blocks toward the very first stages of situational autonomy,” Beyer said. “So highway piloting is very viable in the next 5-10 years; so is yard maneuvering. And there are already driverless vehicles in mining applications around the world. But there’s a big difference between any of those, and navigating — for example — downtown Chicago. The complexity of autonomous driving in urban environments is not an easy nut to crack, especially when you’re talking about an 80,000-pound vehicle.”

Another example of situational autonomy is what Bendix describes as “Traffic Jam” technologies, which bring the capabilities of active cruise control with braking to low-speed, stop-and-go environments and combine them with steering. In “Traffic Jam Assist” mode, a driver would have hands on the wheel and be paying attention to the road, where a “Traffic Jam Pilot” would permit the driver to handle other tasks. The latter function would require multiple sensors and redundant systems.

“The higher you go on the autonomous level scale, the more important these backups become,” Beyer said. “That’s why Bendix is already focusing today on the requirements for tomorrow: You don’t get to a safer future without the most solid foundations in the present.”

Through an ever-growing portfolio of technology developments and unparalleled post-sales support, Bendix delivers on areas critical to fleets, including safety, vehicle performance, and efficiency. For nearly 90 years, the company has worked toward safer roads for everyone, helping to lower the total cost of commercial vehicle ownership and strengthen return on investment in safety technologies.