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The Future of Motoring – In Car Collision Avoidance Systems

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Cars, SUVs and light trucks are undergoing a new evolution in passenger safety.

Over the past forty years, many new safety feature have been built in passenger vehicles – seat belts, progressive crumple zones, multiple airbags, etc. The development of these now “traditional” crash-based safety systems is reaching the limits of what is practical and affordable. The automobile industry is now switching its focus from collision survivability to avoiding a collision in the first instance. Most carmakers are now embedding sophisticated detection systems in cars to monitor such things as lane navigation accuracy and vehicle-to-vehicle distance measurements. For example, automatic steering and braking is activated if a car strays erratically across lane markings, or fails to slow down if vehicles ahead are stopped.

These collision avoidance systems are designed to minimise or avoid collisions, rather than simply minimise harm to passengers during collisions. The interest of the automobile insurance industry in these new systems is obvious – they will save many billions of dollars in insurance payouts each year if fewer cars have accidents. Making cars safer is truly a win-win situation for the industry and the consumer.
So… how does Locata fit into this exciting new development, which will influence the future of car safety design?

For effective testing of collision avoidance systems the vehicles have to run in real-world situations, for example moving at speeds of up to 60 mph (100 kph), and set up in situations that would definitely lead to a crash if the avoidance systems do not work. In these test scenarios, cars cannot be driven by humans. That’s why the Vehicle Research Center (VRC) in Virginia contracted Peronne Robotics to build completely automated, robotic vehicles which can reliably repeat the same trajectory for every vehicle under test, every time.

It is expected that a number of these future tests will end in crashes. And that’s entirely the point. The tests will establish very clearly whether one manufacturer’s collision avoidance solution is better than another’s. When the VRC publishes the results of their tests it forces car manufacturer to promptly improve their systems to meet the industry’s best practice… or face lower sales because of the publicity surrounding their poor comparative performance.

Locata’s unique ability to provide high-accuracy positioning in many environments (including indoors) is the essential component that will allow the VRC and Perrone Robotics to automate this testing process. The vehicle under test and the robotic target vehicles must be placed in accurate, repeatable and reliable trajectories relative to each other. In addition, this high-accuracy positioning must be carried over from one test to the other, or a valid apples-to-apples comparison is not possible. Like many other customers, the VRC understands it cannot rely on GPS in all their environments (especially indoor testing for areas like parking garages). Any variability in positioning accuracy is simply not acceptable in critical test environments, so the VRC needs a capability that is more reliable in their test environments than GPS.

After wide-ranging research, Perrone Robotics and the IIHS concluded that Locata was the only company in the world that could provide the required level of accuracy, reliability and consistency needed by the VRC’s new test facility. This is an incredible validation of Locata’s technology and again puts Locata at the forefront of future developments in reliable positioning, this time for the car industry.
Locata has already shipped a LocataNet to the VRC for the building of the outdoor collision avoidance test facility. Stage 2 – the indoor facility – will involve building a massive covered stadium that will provide an all-weather, indoor test bed and will be commissioned in Q1/2014