- Michael Dick, Board Member for Technical Development at AUDI AG: “Projects like these provide us with fundamental information for the driver assistance systems of tomorrow”
With the technology demonstrator from the “Audi Urban Mobility” research project, Audi proves that a car can perform maneuvers safely, even without the driver. At the Volkswagen Group’s event on the evening before the Geneva Motor Show, the technology demonstrator based on the Audi TTS drove independently onto the stage.
This car is the direct result of a research project underway at the Volkswagen Group Automotive Innovation Laboratory (VAIL) in Palo Alto (California). The joint project for the advancement of automotive technology is led by the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) and Stanford University.
The aim of the project is not to make the driver, or the pleasure of driving, dispensable in the future. Its main focus is to carry out an in-depth assessment of current and future driver assistance technologies. The results and findings of this work will help Audi to further enhance the driving experience and vehicle safety for generations to come.
Autonomous driving technologies could, for instance, save drivers time by taking over routine tasks such as driving into a particular space in a multi-storey parking lot.
The “Audi Urban Mobility” technology demonstrator is based on the production version of the Audi TTS. Audi engineers chose the TTS because its technical systems, such as the drive-by-wire throttle and the semi-automatic DSG dual-clutch gearbox, are well matched to the electronics that allow the vehicle to drive without human input.
The computer hardware in the TTS research vehicle is not significantly more complex than that found in a standard laptop. At present two computers, located in the trunk, are used on the vehicle. One runs safety-related algorithms using Oracle’s Real Time Java (Java RTS). The other runs vehicle dynamics algorithms. These algorithms enable the TTS to respond superbly on a variety of surfaces, at different speeds and under varying conditions. The differential GPS system is able to keep the TTS to within around two centimeters from the center line of a normal road.
The fact that Audi already has expertise in this area is shown by the impressive performance of the self-driven Audi TTS. In September 2010, the prototype completed the legendary, almost 20-kilometer-long Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the Rocky Mountains fully independently. The mixture of asphalt and gravel surfaces proved to be a particular challenge.
This project uses electronics that help the driver to avoid hazardous situations. For this purpose, software had to be developed that could reproduce the quick decisions and rapid maneuvers of professional rally drivers under the most difficult road conditions.
The connection with rally driving was an important inspiration for the project team. Many leading automotive technologies that can be found in today’s Audi models have evolved out of motorsports. This is because new technologies are pushed to the limits in motor racing before they can be adapted for broader use in normal road traffic.
“Audi Urban Mobility”: the research partners and their roles
Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL)
Role: to convert a vehicle to drive-by-wire, develop a safety architecture to ensure reliable, autonomous, driverless operation as well as implement control algorithms programmed in Stanford on a system jointly developed with Sun MicroSystems.
Stanford University Dynamics Design Lab (SDDL) as one of the member laboratories of the “Volkswagen Group Automotive Innovation Laboratory” (VAIL)
Role: to develop robust control algorithms that enable the model to safely transfer its driving qualities to the road under changing conditions (e.g. a variety of surfaces and speeds).
Role: to specify a hardware platform which can run the real-time algorithms developed in Stanford; to develop a framework that enables Real Time Java (Java RTS) to communicate with the vehicle’s CAN wiring harness and the autonomous driving control system.