Driver assistance technologies provide a helping hand in times of trouble.  Electronic driver assistance systems are increasingly being incorporated in cars across the board, from luxury vehicles to small city cars.  Many of these systems are being fitted as standard equipment.  The impact of these technologies is helping to avoid accidents and take the stress and strain out of driving. In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with Bosch engineers about their advanced driver assistance systems. 

just-auto: What are the most cost-effective driver assistance systems to implement?

Bosch: Driver assistance systems are a heterogeneous family of systems: they range from systems contributing mainly to more driving safety, e.g. ESP® and predictive emergency braking systems (PEBS) to systems providing more driving comfort, e.g. the park pilot and adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems.

Some of these systems have been on the market for several years, are mature technologies and already cost-effective. Others were launched only recently and have yet to reach the same level of cost effectiveness. Furthermore, the notion of cost effectiveness also differs from system to system: while for systems which address driving safety and the broader dimension of road safety, cost effectiveness can be and is often measured in a way that includes a societal perspective,(i.e. injuries and fatalities avoided or mitigated), the cost effectiveness of systems aimed at driving comfort is assessed by the benefit they provide to the individual driver.

We support the widespread use of these new systems through our “generation approach” to product development, by offering a portfolio of ultra-sonic sensors, mid-range sensors, and long range sensors and by networking existing sensors and actuators. Using the same sensor hardware for a multitude of functions in a vehicle increases the cost effectiveness of this hardware. One example is using ultrasonic parking sensors not only for park distance control and automatic parking assistance, but also for monitoring blind spots. Multi-functional camera systems allowing up to four functions (including road-sign recognition, intelligent headlight control, and lane keeping support) are another example.

Radar-based safety technologies such as advance collision warning and blind-spot detection are becoming common place as optional equipment on new vehicles. While the possibilities to “assist the driver” seem endless, is there a risk of information overload?

The HMI [human-machine interface] is central to our corporate research, product advance engineering and engineering activities.

Now that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made collision warning and lane departure alert part of the New Car Assessment Programme requirements for a five-star safety rating, I guess that the market for such technology in North America will grow?

Indeed, programmes such as NCAP positively affect the market deployment of DAS by rewarding OEMs for their safety developments and innovations, by defining minimum safety standards for modern vehicles, and by giving guidance to new car buyers. In 2009, Euro NCAP introduced an overall star rating and the new dimension of "Safety Assist" in their rating, which underlines the intention to focus on an integrated vehicle safety approach as well as on promising advanced safety systems. Additionally, Euro NCAP made the assessment criteria in the new Euro NCAP initiative more advanced, with 2010 focusing in particular on DAS.

In 2010, US NCAP included ESP, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning in their analysis though not yet in their rating. We believe it will inspire the industry to equip more cars with DAS.

To what extent does driver acceptance of radar safety systems vary from one geographical market to the next?

Mobility, accident and driving patterns differ from region to region. Those differences mean differences in the market penetration of safety systems. In several regions, improving motorcycle safety is just as much of a priority as improving passenger car safety. While in some regions ABS is not yet standard safety equipment, other countries are already standardising ESP® and starting to look into DAS. That is why we have been localising our sales, marketing, and engineering organisation in several major automotive markets for many years to reflect this reality.

For some time, advanced driver assistance systems were the sole preserve of the luxury vehicle class yet nowadays features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems are being offered on the Ford Focus. How do you see the roll out of such ADAS technologies across all vehicles in Europe?

We see dynamic growth for DAS. This growth is expected because the industry no longer just develops sensors for the premium vehicle segment and then waits until - over a length of time - these sensors find their way into the other vehicle segments. Rather, companies take the requirements of all vehicle segments into account right from the start – in their pre-development and development activities – by developing a portfolio of sensors.

Furthermore, for more safety-oriented DAS:

  • The European Union’s Transport Policy 2011 – 2020 aims to reduce fatalities on European roads by half over the next decade. Additionally, the policy introduces a focus on the reduction of severe injuries; ADAS can contribute to achieving these goals.
  • The EU Safety Regulation makes ESP® mandatory as of November 2014 for all vehicle classes. We expect this standardisation to result in a demand for DAS by OEMs as they seek to gain a competitive edge. Further, since ESP is an important component of ACC, the marginal cost for ACC will decrease as ESP becomes standard in all vehicles.
  • Euro NCAP recently introduced its new initiative "Euro NCAP advanced,” offering a reward scheme to OEMs for ADAS.

And for more comfort-oriented DAS:

  • The OEMs have a differential strategy to offer DAS in an increasing number of vehicles in their portfolio, addressing drivers’ need for more relaxed and comfortable driving in the face of higher traffic density, increased travel distances, and growing city traffic.

To what extent has the trend toward global platforms enabled new technologies to be introduced in low-tech markets?

The development of global platforms makes technologies available to all markets, provided that the technologies are actually available in those markets. There is a difference between the “market availability” and “technical availability” of a technology. It cannot be assumed that market availability will follow from technical availability. While the latter is an engineering decision, the former is typically a sales and marketing decision reflecting local needs and strategies.

Soon, in order to sell vehicles in Europe or the United States, OEMs will all have to equip them with ESP. This is not the case in India, China, Brazil, and other countries. So global platforms enable and facilitate the introduction of new technologies, but do not in themselves guarantee it.

As we understand it, traffic sign recognition is a relatively new function for camera platforms. While this functionality starts with speed monitoring, could it be developed to embrace other derivatives?

The current status of traffic sign recognition is: Robust detection of circular signs as well as the information on variable speed limit systems. In the future, it will also be possible to detect other road signs in addition to speed limits, such as “No passing," "End of no-passing zone,” and many others

A combination with digital maps to interpret special scenarios will also be possible one day:

  • “Inner city” status
  • Enter/exit highway mode
  • Crossings and turning manoeuvres
  • Retrieve additional signs

And the networking with other functions and systems will lead to further improvements:

  • “No passing” warning in combination with LDW (lane departure warning)
  • Automatic setting of speed on speed limiter or ACC

With the improvement of ADAS, I guess map data and positioning information of navigation systems require more accurate and extensive location information? e.g. detailed road shape such as curvature, gradient, number of lanes, crossing, lamp, and so on.

Intervening ADAS functions in particular (such as adaptive light control, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping support, eco driving functions, brake prefill) do need accurate and reliable road information (mainly curve radius, super elevation, slope, and height information) as well as reliable and up-to-date map attribute data (such as road signs, number of lanes, and traffic lights). The positioning information in current automotive navigation systems is, in our experience, already quite good; the map data need to be developed further.

What type of technical advances you are making in the area of navigation-based ADAS?

The integration and fusion of vehicle sensor information with map data, geo referencing, and learning of map attributes are major fields in which we are seeing technical advances and continuing research.