Volvo Initiates Project Using Cloud-based Communication to Make Driving Safer
ROCKLEIGH, N.J. (March 19, 2014) - Volvo Car Group (Volvo Cars), the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen) are joining forces for a pilot project in which road friction information from individual cars is shared within a cloud-based system.
The real-time data about slippery patches on the road are used to warn vehicles nearby, at the same time as it contributes to making winter road maintenance more efficient.
“The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to ‘speak’ to each other and with the traffic environment. This can contribute to making traffic safer,” says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars.
“We have 50 test cars on the roads, and next winter the fleet will grow considerably. Our aim is to make the technology available for our customers within a few years,” he adds.
Using the mobile network
When the Volvo test car detects an icy or slippery road patch, the information is transmitted to Volvo Cars’ database via the mobile phone network. An instant warning is transmitted to other vehicles that are approaching the slippery area, making it possible for the drivers to take immediate action to avoid a critical situation.
A slippery road warning on the instrument cluster alerts the driver. The application in the vehicle will be designed to adapt the driver warning to match the severity level based on the vehicle speed and the present road conditions.
Improved winter road maintenance
The information about the icy patch is also sent to the road administrator as a complement to existing measurement stations along the road. The data can help the road administrator and key partners to better plan and execute winter road maintenance and quickly address changed conditions.
“When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient. The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users. This could also reduce the use of salt when not needed and minimize the environmental impact,” says Israelsson.
Volvo Cars recognizes that the maintained integrity of end-users is an important aspect of the system. The information shared with the road administrator will not include data of unique vehicles. The aggregated information is used solely to describe the present status of the road network.
Ambitious connectivity strategy
Volvo Cars strategically invests in and initiates partnerships to create cloud-based solutions, and the slippery road warning is the first safety feature in the Volvo cloud. The development of sophisticated communication via the mobile network is part of the company’s aim to offer customers a fully connected experience.
“This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles,” says Erik Israelsson. “There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow.”
“The strategic focus on connectivity within our new Scalable Product Architecture paves the way for more cloud-based safety solutions. This will bring us closer to our safety vision that nobody should die or suffer serious injuries in a new Volvo car by the year 2020,” concludes Israelsson.
Volvo Cars Conducts Research into Driver Sensors to Create Safer Cars
ROCKLEIGH, N.J. (March 17, 2014) - Through systems that can recognize and distinguish whether a driver is tired or inattentive, the car of the future can become even safer. Examples of this include technology that detects what the driver is looking at or whether he or she has closed eyes.
“This will enable the driver to rely a bit more on their car, and know that it will help them when needed,” explains Per Landfors, engineer at Volvo Cars and project leader for driver support functions.
By placing a sensor on the dashboard to monitor aspects such as the direction in which a drivers are looking, how open their eyes are, as well as their head position and angle, it is possible to develop precise safety systems that detect driver alertness and are able to adjust the car accordingly. This also means that the car will ensure that it does not stray out of the lane or get too close to the car in front when the driver is not paying attention, as well as being able to wake a driver who is falling asleep.
“Since the car is able to detect if a driver is not paying attention, safety systems can be adapted more effectively. For example, the car's support systems can be activated later on if the driver is focused, and earlier if the driver’s attention is directed elsewhere," Landfors explains.
Some of the current systems that can be included are Lane Keeping Aid, Collision warning with full auto brake and Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist.
The technology is based on a sensor mounted on the dashboard in front of the driver. Small LEDs illuminate the driver with infrared light, which is then monitored by the sensor. Infrared light is just outside the wavelengths that the human eye can see, which means that the person behind the wheel doesn’t notice it at all.
Driver sensors are also opening up other possibilities. By monitoring eye movements, the car would be able to adjust both interior and exterior lighting to follow the direction in which the driver is looking. The car would also be able to adjust seat settings, for instance, simply by recognizing the person sitting behind the wheel.
“This could be done by the sensor measuring different points on the face to identify the driver, for example. At the same time, however, it is essential to remember than the car doesn’t save any pictures and nor does it have a driver surveillance function,” Landfors clarifies.
The technology is already installed in test vehicles. Volvo Cars is also conducting research together with partners including Chalmers University of Technology and Volvo AB to identify effective methods for detecting tiredness and inattention.
The analysis of the driver’s state, known as driver state estimation, in which driver sensors play an important role, is a field that may be key to self-driving cars in the future. The car will need to be able to determine whether the driver is capable of taking control when the conditions for driving autonomously are no longer present. A driver sensor could be of assistance in this.
This technology is one of the many initiatives bringing Volvo Cars closer to its goal for 2020 – that no one shall be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.
Volvo Car Group Tests Road Magnets for Accurate Positioning of Self-driving Cars
ROCKLEIGH, N.J. (March 11, 2014) - Volvo Car Group has completed a research project using magnets in the roadway to help the car determine its position. The research, which has been financed in strategic co-operation with the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), is a potential key to the implementation of self-driving vehicles.
Reliable and highly accurate positioning is one of the crucial issues in the development of self-driving cars.
While established positioning technologies such as GPS and cameras have limitations in certain conditions, road-integrated magnets remain unaffected by physical obstacles and poor weather conditions.
“The magnets create an invisible ‘railway’ that literally paves the way for a positioning inaccuracy of less than one decimeter. We have tested the technology at a variety of speeds and the results so far are promising,” says Jonas Ekmark, preventive safety leader at Volvo Car Group.
Volvo Cars plays a leading role in a large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
“Our aim is for the car to be able to handle the driving all by itself. Accurate, reliable positioning is a necessary prerequisite for a self-driving car,” explains Ekmark. He adds: “It is fully possible to implement autonomous vehicles without changes to the present infrastructure. However, this technology adds interesting possibilities, such as complementing road markings with magnets.”
Helps prevent run-off road accidents
In parallel with the potential in the field of autonomous driving, road-integrated magnets open up a number of other possibilities:
- Incorporating magnet-based positioning in preventive safety systems could help prevent run-off road accidents.
- Magnets could facilitate accuracy of winter road maintenance, which in turn could prevent damage to snow-covered objects, such as barriers and signs, near the road edge.
- There is also a possibility of more efficient utilization of road space since accurate positioning could allow lanes to be narrower.
Accurate, reliable and cost-effective
Volvo Cars’ research team created a 100-meter long test track at the company’s testing facilities in Hällered outside Gothenburg, Sweden. A pattern of round ferrite magnets (40x15 mm) was located 200 mm below the road surface. The car was equipped with several magnetic field sensors.
The research program was designed to evaluate crucial issues, such as detection range, reliability, durability, cost and the impact on road maintenance.
“Our experience so far is that ferrite magnets are an efficient, reliable and relatively cheap solution, both when it comes to the infrastructure and on-board sensor technology. The next step is to conduct tests in real-life traffic,” explains Ekmark.
Claes Tingvall, traffic safety director at the Swedish Transport Administration, agrees: “The test results are very interesting, especially when adding the potential for improved safety as well the advantages for the development of self-driving vehicles. A large-scale implementation of road magnets could very well be part of Sweden’s aim to pioneer technology that contributes to sustainable mobility,” says Tingvall.