How Kistler is helping to shape developments in autonomous driving

One of the most dynamic trends in automotive engineering is autonomous driving – and the transition to this new technology is set to usher in decisive changes to global mobility in the coming years and decades. All over the world, Kistler is helping to shape advances in this area by supporting manufacturers and designers with vehicle development and safety technologies.

Many people associate the concept of autonomous driving with a revolutionary change. But in actual fact, it is another stage in the gradual evolution of the automobile. Driver assistance systems already ensure greater safety and enhanced comfort while driving, and some models now feature pilot functions for limited types of use (on expressways) or speed ranges (up to 40 or 60 km/h). So the transition from assisted driving to fully automated and autonomous mobility is not an abrupt change but a gradual one, with stages such as partially automated and highly automated driving in between.

Analysts and industry-watchers expect that series versions of fully self-driving robot cars will be available or in actual use by 2020 – in less than two years' time! It should not be forgotten that this is a highly lucrative market which is generating new business models alongside the new technologies: for example, sales amounting to hundreds of billions are forecast for future delivery and transportation services based on driverless vehicles. This makes it easy to understand why IT-driven players such as delivery or transportation providers want their share of the market alongside conventional automobile manufacturers. It will be fascinating to see how the race to implement autonomous mobility develops, for passenger cars as well as commercial vehicles: startups and companies from the Asian region (including China in particular) will also want to have their say.

Integrated vehicle safety platform

As a strong partner for the automotive sector, Kistler closely monitors the market and considers that it is well-equipped to meet future challenges. Robot cars are designed redundantly at present, and the law only allows them to operate without a steering wheel or pedals to a very limited extent. But once redundancy is eliminated – if not before – vehicle architecture will undergo a fundamental change. Vehicle occupants will no longer be drivers but passengers, and new concepts for spatial design and usage will evolve. All of these developments will have an enormous impact on passive safety – a field where Kistler enjoys broad-based positioning thanks to its integrated crash test portfolio.

Kistler scored another first in 2018 by developing its own dummy to complement its tried-and-tested range of cutting-edge crash test sensors for the various phases of an accident and its portfolio of instrumented load-cell walls. "THOR" (the Test Device for Human Occupant Restraint) is currently the most advanced anthropomorphic dummy on the market, equipped with DTI technology for up to 288 measuring channels and also certified to NHTSA standards. This proprietary product allows flexible instrumentation by Kistler, and the results it supplies are exceptionally reliable and reproducible – paving the way for the imminent transformation of the automobile by electromobility and autonomous driving.

Thomas Warkentin, Head of Kistler's Strategic Business Field Vehicle Safety, comments: "Crash tests will continue to gain importance because vehicles as well as road traffic are becoming more complex as time goes on. Changes in vehicle usage are already creating entirely new test scenarios – and the overall result is that we will have to carry out more tests." A simple example: if a vehicle is driving autonomously, it is impossible to predict what positions the passengers will adopt – horizontal, vertical, or at a specified angle transversely to the direction of travel. OEMs are already beginning to opt for the new THOR dummy. And in response to this demand, Kistler is continuously ramping up production – a new manufacturing building is now being planned.

Complete flexibility and accuracy in vehicle development

Vehicle dynamics, durability and tire testing are further areas where Kistler is constantly working to develop solutions that can meet future challenges. Key advantages offered by driverless vehicles include the promise of a reduction in the risk of accidents (to zero, if possible) and an increase in passenger comfort. These trends are expected to result in changes to the requirements for driving behavior, stability and robustness, with standards likely to become higher. With today's vehicles, the focus is on conventional features of vehicle dynamics such as agility and sporting performance: these parameters are mainly perceived and acknowledged as positive by the driver behind the steering wheel, whereas the passengers being driven enjoy comfort values such as quiet running, agreeable acoustics or mobile connectivity. These changes pose challenges that must now be met by the measurement technology deployed in vehicle testing applications.

As regards durability testing too, the advance of automation is creating new requirements and scenarios. For example, active chassis component interventions have to be recorded for laboratory tests, and it must then be possible to reproduce them in the complex control system for the setup. Fast digital data transmission via the bus system or in the network is an essential requirement here. The Kistler Group offers an extensive portfolio of advanced measurement equipment that can be deployed efficiently and cost-effectively with DTI technology. This provides OEMs and equipment suppliers with the means to make technologically perfected driverless vehicles ready for series production.

 

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