|The rapid rise of self drive cars will |
make this type of driving a lot safer.
BMW and Continental have teamed up to develop an “electronic co-pilot” for cars.
Scheduled to run to the end of 2014, the goal of the joint project will be to develop a number of prototype vehicles capable of highly automated freeway driving on European freeways from 2020, with fully automated systems expected from 2025.
The next test phase for prototype vehicles involves testing them — with trained drivers behind the wheel — in typical driving conditions that will include intersections, toll stations, roadworks and national borders.
Both BMW and Continental have already logged thousands of kilometres using semi-autonomous systems. Continental worked with Mercedes on adaptive cruise control and emergency braking assistance systems. It also participated in the EU research project called HAVEit, where it was responsible for developing a highly automated assist system for driving around traffic jams and roadworks.
Like Google and Audi, Continental also took one of its self-driving car testbeds to Nevada in early 2012, where it became the first automotive components supplier to receive Nevada DMV permission to test on public roads and recorded over 24 000 km of highly automated driving.
BMW famously demonstrated its BMW TrackTrainer on the world’s most popular car programme Top Gear, The self-driving BMW track car uses high-resolution GPS and video data to navigate around race tracks fully autonomously, and the Emergency Stop Assistant, which has some novel attributes, including monitoring the driver for incapacitation.
If the vehicle senses through biosensors that the driver is having a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, then it will take over operation and bring the vehicle to a safe stop on the side of the road and call for help.
In mid-2011, BMW also tested a self-driving car on the A9 Motorway between Munich and Nuremberg, where the car mixed in with traffic and obeyed the traffic laws.
The BMW test vehicle was equipped with 360-degree LIDAR (laser radar), radar, sonar, and computer vision systems using cameras to detect other cars and monitor traffic.
In comparison to the Google self-driving car, which sports a large spinning LIDAR unit on its roof, the autonomous BMW appears much like a standard model.
By concentrating on automated freeway driving, the companies hope to make the technology safe, attractive and affordable for customers. However, they anticipate autonomous driving technologies will be rolled out in stages, with partially automated driving possible from 2016, highly autonomous systems available from 2020, and fully autonomous systems appearing in vehicles from 2025.