MAN Nutzfahrzeuge and AKTIV research partners complete four-year research work

Project partners develop intelligent traffic assistant systems that may significantly reduce the risk of traffic jams and accidents on Germany's roads.

On June 23, 2010 the AKTIV research partners presented the results of their four-year research project at TÜV Rheinland's vehicle testing grounds in Mendig. The AKTIV group focused on the areas of safety and the avoidance of traffic jams by means of vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

In the framework of the AKTIV project, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge worked intensively on integrated lateral control and active emergency braking with automatic braking intervention. A further research topic of central importance was the investigation into the driver's behaviour and the driver's attentiveness when assistant systems are in operation. "Most important for us is always the question of safety, as well as our contribution to efficient transport. With the system developed in AKTIV, we could make a considerable contribution to the avoidance of accidents and traffic jams right now," explained Eberhard Hipp, Advanced Development Manager at MAN Nutzfahrzeuge and simultaneously AKTIV program coordinator. "In order for the systems developed here to move rapidly into series production, industry and government must act jointly in their implementation. Assistant systems are only interesting for customers if they not only result in greater safety but also have economic benefits," stressed Hipp.

Active emergency braking

With active emergency braking the driver sees and hears visual and acoustic signals in good time whenever there is a risk of a rear-end collision. An MAN TGX 18.540 was equipped with a radar and video sensory system to demonstrate active emergency braking. This system also detects stationary obstacles and automatically initiates braking intervention if the driver fails to react to the prior warning signals. It is particularly in situations relevant to safety such as tailbacks on motorways, where rear-end collisions occur again and again, that active braking could in future help prevent accidents. In order to achieve the highest possible degree of acceptance from drivers, factors such as the driver's momentary attentiveness and the situation in the adjoining lanes are part of the equation when the warning and braking intervention times are calculated.

Integrated lateral control

The integrated lateral control developed by MAN Nutzfahrzeuge automatically keeps the truck in a defined target position within its lane. This is done by having a camera film the course of travel as well as the position of the truck. Deviations from the target position are avoided or reduced to an acceptable minimum by means of continuous steering intervention.

Moreover, digital maps enable the truck's target position within the lane to be adjusted for the next corner. There is also a radar system to detect trucks coming the other way: the target position of the vehicle is then moved towards the outer edge of the lane.

Lateral control on construction sites

Traffic in Europe's urban centers is already stretching the capacity of the road network to its limits. Additional obstacles such as construction sites on motorways further diminish network capacity and often result in long jams. By comparison with a passenger car, there is not much space for a truck on a narrowed construction-site lane.

MAN tested a construction-site pilot on a prototype. Equipping the truck with automatic lateral control can assist the driver on narrow roads and prevent the vehicle leaving its lane. This is achieved by actively intervening in the steering of the vehicle. Accidents caused by leaving the lane unintentionally can in future be prevented. This means that overtaking a truck on a construction site will get safer, which will increase the flow of traffic in these areas.

This is achieved with the help of a so-called Road Side Unit, which transmits information on the course of the construction site to the vehicle, in particular information on the distance between structures on the side of the road and the lane. A laser scanner in the vehicle also continuously measures the distance of those structures from the truck. The special lateral control for construction sites then actively intervenes in the steering to ensure that the vehicle remains precisely in its lane. The system switches itself off automatically as soon as the driver removes his hands from the steering wheel. In this way, the driver always remains fully attentive to the vehicle.

Keeping the driver's attentiveness

A very important aspect of the development of new assistant systems is how the drivers accept and handle those systems. With this in mind, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge carried out driving tests in the MAN truck simulator at the TU Munich's Garching campus, in which drivers were exposed to typical situations that occur daily in long-haul transport. During long simulated trips with assistant systems, the drivers' attention levels were analysed to establish whether changes took place. The goal of the project is to design assistant systems in such a way as to minimise the risk of requiring too little from the driver and the associated inattentiveness. MAN used the simulator to investigate the influence of the level of automation and type of automation on the attentiveness of the driver, deriving corresponding design features for assistant systems from the results.

About the AKTIV research initiative

AKTIV stands for "Adaptive und Kooperative Technologien für den Intelligenten Verkehr", literally "adaptive and cooperative technologies for intelligent traffic". 28 partners are involved in this German research initiative – automobile manufacturers and suppliers, electronics, telecommunications and software companies, research institutes, highway and traffic administrations. With the aim of making the traffic of the future safer and more efficient, the partners cooperated on developing new driver assistant systems as well as on solutions for efficient traffic management and for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

The AKTIV partners are: Adam Opel GmbH, Audi AG, AZT Automotive GmbH, BMW Group, Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt), Continental, Daimler AG, Ericsson, Ford Forschungszentrum Aachen GmbH, the Hessen State Office for Roads and Traffic (HLSV), Saarland University of Applied Sciences, IBEO, ifak e.V. Magdeburg, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG, PTV AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Siemens AG, TU Braunschweig, TU Munich, Tele Atlas Deutschland GmbH, Transver GmbH, University of Kassel, Vodafone Group R&D Germany and Volkswagen AG. Many university and research institutes as well as small and medium-sized companies also worked on projects as sub-contractors.

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