Vince Austin: "The expected demand for highly sophisticated active safety technologies, driven by Euro NCAP’s latest five-star rating criteria and a rapidly expanding global fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles, has led to a radical re-think of the whole braking system."

Vince Austin: "The expected demand for highly sophisticated active safety technologies, driven by Euro NCAP’s latest five-star rating criteria and a rapidly expanding global fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles, has led to a radical re-think of the whole braking system."

Electronic braking systems are rapidly gaining share in the automotive industry as automakers seek benefits of improved performance at low cost.  These braking technologies are also being driven by regulatory bodies such as Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme). To find out how, Matthew Beecham talked with Vince Austin, Director, Product Planning, Global Braking Systems, TRW Automotive.

It is said that from 2014, it will be 'practically impossible' for new vehicles to receive a five star Euro NCAP rating if they are not fitted with an Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system. What's your view on the prospects for increasing fitment of AEB?

In 2014, significant changes will come into force regarding Euro NCAP's ratings scheme where points can be awarded for 'AEB City' technologies (AEB up to 50 kph) and 'AEB Urban' (AEB up to 80kph). The changes aim to support the European Union's goal of halving road deaths between 2010 and 2020.

It will be very difficult to maintain five stars without the fitment of relevant technologies to help score points in these categories. We believe this represents a major breakthrough in the market penetration of driver assist systems such as radar and video camera, and undoubtedly a significant step in making such systems standard across new vehicles platforms.

It will also drive the further sophistication of electronic braking systems such as electronic stability control variants that can satisfy the requirements of rapid brake pressure applies - particularly for higher speed AEB. For example, TRW offers a premium ESC system with a six piston pump configuration - and such systems also tend to work across a fuller spectrum of powertrains rather than relying on vacuum boost from a traditional internal combustion engine.  In addition, two piston pump variants with larger motors can serve the needs of smaller car segments.

Although some carmakers already offer AEB, we understand that there are no or few guidelines for how it should operate (such as whether it should just inform the driver of an impending impact or actually initiate braking).  So I guess it is not as straightforward for car buyers as ticking the AEB box on the options list.  What's your view?

An automatic emergency braking system should automatically slow the vehicle in a potentially critical situation - with or without driver intervention. The driver may initially be informed, or warned of an impending collision, but if their reaction is not enough to avoid the crash, maximum brake pressure can be applied to help mitigate the impact.

AEB systems are designed to automatically initiate a braking response, but the way in which this occurs is not set in stone. In principle, three various sensors can be utilised: radar, mono or stereo camera. Radar can precisely measure distance and relative speed which means it is particularly suitable for the AEB Urban test scenarios. Video camera, on the other hand, is very precise when it comes to measuring angles and providing a wider field of view as well as identifying pedestrians and movement patterns, which therefore makes it well suited for AEB City with pedestrian protection. In addition, a camera can detect lane markings and road signs, so can therefore support Lane Departure Warning/Lane Keeping Assist systems and Speed Assistance Systems, all of which are assessed in the Euro NCAP rating scheme.

The correct choice of environmental sensor and having an appropriate system design are crucial because autonomous emergency braking must only be triggered if it is certain that a collision is about to happen. The ideal situation is to have both sensors fitted so they can independently verify targets and sensor data can be compared.

As with a number of other collision avoidance systems, is there a danger that cars fitted with AEB will make the driver that little less attentive ('safe' in the knowledge that the technology will take over if required?)

AEB systems are designed to intervene when a collision is imminent - the driver is always encouraged to respond initially and is usually prompted through a warning. The objective of these systems is not to take the responsibility away from the driver - but to help act as a safety net if for some reason a driver is not responding. With many technologies such as lane departure warning, the driver can override the system and still has full control if they choose.  

What are the most likely technical developments in braking systems? Does legislation play a significant part in prioritising technical developments? If so which aspects are most relevant?

The expected demand for highly sophisticated active safety technologies, driven by Euro NCAP's latest five-star rating criteria and a rapidly expanding global fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles, has led to a radical re-think of the whole braking system. Braking technologies are expected to make a significant contribution to future driver assist systems (DAS), and this will become increasingly important to vehicle manufacturers and their customers - as Euro NCAP hardens its rating scheme and fitment rates are driven in the US by proposed NCAP enhancements and the IIHS Top Safety Pick designations.

For example with AEB, in order to achieve the best possible initial speed reduction when a collision is imminent, it is necessary to include not only the sensor system but also the brake system in the equation. Pre-filling the brakes can help ensure that the full braking force is available as soon as the driver responds to the AEB warning and steps on the brake pedal - thereby reducing speed as much as possible.

With this in mind, high performance brake systems will become increasingly important such as TRW's IBC (Integrated Brake Control System) which can enable full deceleration extremely quickly. The IBC replaces - in a single integrated unit - the electronic stability control (ESC) system along with the vacuum booster and the associated cables, sensors, switches, electronic controllers, and vacuum pumps where they are required for low or no vacuum configurations

How is the market for electric parking brake (EPB) systems developing in emerging BRIC countries?  In terms of the adoption of these systems, what are you seeing among OEMs?

In recent years, TRW has significantly expanded the supply and localisation of its EPB technology in support of rapidly growing customer interest. EPB is becoming a major technology in some BRIC markets - especially China. TRW localised production of EPB in 2007 following an 8,000 square meter expansion at its braking plant near to Beijing, and has since delivered millions of systems for the Chinese market. Some vehicle manufacturers are expected to adopt EPB in Brazil as well, at lower fitment rates initially.

Where do you see the greatest growth potential for brakes suppliers in the next few years?

We see the greatest growth potential in technologies which can meet the needs of electric/ hybrid vehicles as well as conventional drivetrains. TRW's IBC is one example of this.

TRW has developed a modular electronic stability control (ESC) family which features everything from basic units - some even developed to remove the pressure sensor to lower cost without compromising performance - through to premium units with six-piston pumps that can rapidly build and apply brake pressure for driver assist functionality, such as emergency braking. These units can be adapted to suit local market requirements.

What demand do you see for the supply of complete corner modules?

TRW's brake module business has grown significantly over recent decades, in particular in markets like China where vehicle manufacturers often prefer to receive fully assembled units for ease of installation in their assembly plants. In many cases vehicle manufacturers in emerging markets prefer a partner with the technological experience, quality mindset and manufacturing expertise to deliver such modules and can provide sequenced, just-in-time supply to the assembly plant if desired.

As a global player, do you see future product requirements differing or converging in the various markets?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE research service

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