Towards intelligent cars

By Emile van Kruijswijk

Ongoing developments in technology enable the car to become increasingly intelligent and automated. The car of the future will be a robot which can operate autonomously. This could highly benefit traffic flow, air quality and traffic safety. Moreover, most traffic jams seemingly occur without a specific reason. The latency of the human driver causes a string of vehicles to become an unstable system. Furthermore, over 90% of all car crashes are directly related to driver faults. What if a smart car, with its sensors, wireless connection to the infrastructure and other cars, and sophisticated control algorithms, could substitute the driver? The congestion problem will be reduced and less accidents will occur.

Google is currently the leading company in the transition towards autonomous driving. Their self-driving cars have traveled over 300.000 test-miles, autonomously. They also have successfully stimulated several US policymakers to develop and implement legislation to allow for autonomous cars on public roads in their states. At the University of Stanford an autonomous racing car is being developed, which is able to autonomously drive a racing track, following the perfect racing lines. Nevertheless, besides those interesting projects, the Eindhoven University of Technology also contributes to the realization of the car of the future; The university actively participates in research on cooperative driving. The technology under development, referred to as Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC), enables automated vehicle following in longitudinal direction. Moreover, in addition to Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which uses onboard sensors, such as radar and lidar, for adapting cruising speed to a preceding vehicle, CACC connects cars by means of wireless communication systems. This enables high performance control to be realized. At the Automotive Engineering Science (AES) lab, a DAF truck equipped with CACC is available which successfully participated in TNO’s Grand Cooperative Driving Challenge (GCDC) in 2011.

My research project to obtain my Master degree in Mechanical Engineering focused on the obvious next step with respect to CACC; integrating lateral control, or automated steering. I conducted this research under supervision of professor Henk Nijmeijer and doctor Igo Besselink (Dynamics & Control) and used a Volkswagen Lupo 3L as base vehicle. We first of all developed a master-slave steering system; we installed a gaming steering wheel in front of the co-driver’s seat and converted the electro-mechanical power steering system of the Lupo into a controllable steering system. As you can imagine, we had a lot of fun testing the car on the TU/e campus. Thereafter, we developed an extended CACC controller to include automated steering control. Finally, we replaced the gaming steering wheel in the car by a vision system to obtain data required for automated steering control.
Consequently, we were able to follow a preceding car in lateral direction, autonomously.This is where my research ended. However, it will undoubtedly be followed up by a one of the many motivated automotive students the university is raising.

In conclusion, companies and research institutes all over the world are focusing on the realization of the car of the future. This car will be able to provide a solution for the huge challenges we are facing, caused by the ever increasing demand for mobility.