FPGAs and sensor fusion
FPGA-powered System on Module technology is used in some cases for sensor fusion applications in automotive. “One potential application for this would be to integrate this with the car so that it is able to track your face. It would then be able to detect if you closed your eyes, if you are drowsing, or even if you are texting on your phone. The sensors for the lane departure could be connected and processed in real-time through this device. In fact, we are already working with one of our customer in Bangalore on this same system, and have even completed the proof of concept,” explained Bryan Fletcher, Technology Director, Global Technical Marketing at Avnet in an interview with EFY.
Google’s self-driving car project uses a remote-sensing Lidar (laser radar) system to implement driverless technology.
6d vision technology
LG says that next-generation camera components will allow the driver to transfer some driving tasks to the future intelligent-cars by monitoring the driver and environment. It would be able to sense sign-boards, implement lane-changing and do other driving manoeuvres. LG will also be allowed to use portions of Mercedes-Benz’s 6D Vision technology, which will let a car automatically change speed depending on route conditions and other situations on the road.
Tesla has an impressive self-driving feature called Autopilot, which combines a camera, radar, and sonar with real time traffic data to automatically drive The car. The website explains that, “With Autopilot activated, Model S automatically follows the road, steering around curves and varying its speed to match the flow of traffic. Changing lanes becomes as simple as a tap of the turn signal. When you arrive at your destination, Model S will both detect a parking spot and automatically park itself.” Just like the car performance upgrade implemented via OTA that we had explained earlier in the article, Autopilot features are progressively enabled over time with software updates. The current software version added automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning. Auto manufacturer Ford is partnering with the Georgia Institute of Technology for a mobility experiment, Parking Spotter. This project also leverages existing sonar and radar technology already available on Ford vehicles, and uses collected data to map parking information on the go.
The SAM car is an interesting project by a company named Arrow , in which a Corvette car is outfitted to be semi-automatically driven. “Infrared sensors in the cap worn by the driver provide head position in real time, which provides the data that is used to deduce how much the rotary actuators should be controlled. These actuators are placed in the steering wheel, gas pedal and brake pedal and receive commands from the infrared sensors. There are also infrared cameras that also monitor the driver’s subtle head movements. A central processor in the car translates the sensor input into motion commands for the car. It is aided by an on-board GPS (global positioning system) that updates 100 times per second, creating virtual boundaries and provides data for the car’s self-correction in certain cases,” explains Natarajan MM, vice president for South Asia and Bhartendu Mishra, director-marketing of Arrow Asia-Pacific explained in an interview with EFY.
Smart cars advising not-so-smart humans maybe?
V2V could also alert drivers when it is time to turn left on a highway exit ramp. Now this sounds pretty mundane, and not really a need for most drivers. However, statistics say otherwise. Unsafe left turns account for more than seven per cent of all car collisions according to an article in the Washington Post!
An Internet of Vehicles
The Internet of Vehicles (IoV) seem to be a new concept based on the IoT. However, Huawei’s website says that nascent forms the IoV are already in existence. “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in Europe and Japan have adopted certain forms of IoV technology. In New Delhi, all 55,000 licensed rickshaws have been fitted with GPS devices so that drivers can be held accountable for their questionable route selection. China’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) has ordered that GPS systems be installed and connected on all long-haul buses and hazmat vehicles by the end of 2011 to ensure good driving habits and reduce the risk for accidents and traffic jams. The Brazilian government has set a goal for all cars in circulation to be fitted with electronic ID chips from its National Automated Vehicle Identification System (Siniav).” It also claims that the launch of the U.S. National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is a milestone for IoV, as it requires that “security chips” be embedded in all online devices, including those in vehicles.
The telecom connection
In India, Vodafone is the provider of choice to have partnered with MREV to provide machine-to-machine (M2M) communication services for the e2o range of cars and a central application. A Times Of India reports reported that AT&T claimed about 20 million connected devices from cars to cargo ship container sensors in 2014, up 21% from the year earlier. While, it has not yet revealed its revenue from its ‘Internet of Things’ business, the fourth quarter of 2014 saw AT&T adding 800,000 connected cars out of 1.3 million connected devices in its network.
Some exciting technologies
The Mercedes-Benz F105 car we mentioned in the beginning of these articles has another impressive feature, in that its windows are almost invisible from the outside while, the same panels function as a TV from the inside.
Structural electronics certainly won’t make the windows disappear, but it allows integration of sensors and other components within the vehicle’s body and undercarriage. The present implementation of this technology although at a very basic level is the highly sensitive microphone in the very front and back part of some cars that records the structural sound, and in the case of an accident and sends the signal to the airbag controller.
Could structural electronics be the next big thing in cars, especially when it is biomimetic, or imitative of nature.? “It is a fascinating and largely under explored area right now. Commercial adaptation will probably start with Aeronautical sector. Smart skins, printed electronics, structural super capacitors where the chassis can also act as both load bearing and energy storage structure,” explains Sandeep Bairampalli, Expert on Robotics, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions.
Another innovative use of electronics is with charging. Qualcomm’s recently announced Halo Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) technology, which provides wireless charging capabilities in a small vehicle package. This will allow users to charge their electric vehicles (EV) easily and quickly. In addition to that, a supportive tech for HALO, named WiPower, enables consumer electronics to charge wirelessly in-vehicle.
We have all heard of the supercapacitor vs battery debate. Could replacing batteries with supercapacitors be feasible in cars? “Theoretically yes. All the major organisations are working towards realisation of this ideal scenario. One of the focus areas of Bosch is Electrification; how do we unlock the potential of energy for the benefit of life. Gradually we will see this happening as the energy density of supercaps increase. We don’t have to match the Li-Ion energy density to see significant market share being taken by super caps vis-a-vis Li-Ion as the power density is much higher and they have significantly higher operational life,” adds Sandeep.
Is all this safe?
“Apart from hacking by third parties, there is much bigger issue which is now stalling the overall smart-car development; and it is CBDT (cross border data transfer). By law, customer data cannot be residing outside the country. And this is somewhat bigger impediment. Most of the advanced car manufacturers such as VW, Audi, Mercedes, Toyota, etc. do not have local IT infrastructure and it is usually in their head quarters (out of India). This means in order to just make basic system fully compliant with law, there is longer process of infrastructure setup. Then sharing customer data or even customer’s car data with any other customer, privacy concerns raised from those sharing, etc, are next in line issues”explains Anand.
Is KITT here?
Who knows, years down the line we might have something like KITT from the 1982 television series Knight Rider – a robotic car with enough artificial intelligence that it can probably pass the Turing test!