Automated driving

Headlight control

Automated Driving is one of the major topics for our mobility of the next decades. New challenges have to be solved and new possibilities open up, in all aspects of the vehicle. At present, cars are available with level 1 automation (assisted), means these cars have lateral or vertical control, by Automatic Cruise Control or Lane Keeping. This phase of automated driving is also called “feet off”, as the driver does not have to use the pedals anymore for accelerating or braking.

The next phase of automated driving is level 2, called “hands off” (partly automated), meaning that the car must have lateral and vertical control. Level 3 means “eyes off” (highly automated), where the driver is allowed to do other tasks. The difficult topic is that the driver has to take over quickly in case of critical situations, so the time to come back from the other activity into the current driving situation must be short.

The final stage of automated driving is level 4, full automation, called “brain off”, which means that there is no task for the driver anymore. This is the most critical level, as the vehicle will have to monitor all safety-critical driving functions on its own, and cope with all kinds of unpredictable conditions that could appear. What complicates it even more is that vehicles with different automation levels will be on the road in future. It would be easier if only fully automated cars are around, as these cars could communicate and know how the others would react.

Even if suitable assistance systems have already existed, each function will need redundancy for fully automated driving. Different technologies should be used, to reduce the failure case to as close to zero as possible. So for example for the 360° surround view and positioning, cars will have to use in parallel Radar, LIDAR, cameras and GPS.

These developments in automated driving are one reason why LIDAR adoption is predicted to drastically increase in the next decade. You can find more information on optical LIDAR technology here and in our rangefinder overview.

As well as this, the steering angle sensor needs to have two redundant measurements, for example in magnetic and optical technology.

Especially in level 3 automated driving, the takeover time of the driver after a phase with other activities is crucial. Therefore good driver observation is necessary inside the car, which can for example be done with a 3D TOF camera sensor, as described here.

In addition to these safety functions, the interior will gain more importance in automated vehicles, as the driver and other passengers will be allowed to do other activities. Especially in level 4, the driver could use all kind of multimedia devices or even sleep during the trip. So for example the interior lighting and multimedia will be of increased importance.

Finally, but one of the most important points, automated cars will be connected with each other and the surrounding infrastructure. Besides broadband and WIFI data transfer, optical infrared communication can be used for data transmission, to build smart streets and smart cities to optimize traffic routing in the future. You can find more information about optical communication here.

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