Advanced Urban Vehicle The Intelligent Car for Urban Mobility

Agile, intelligent, urban: a concept vehicle from ZF shows what the future of urban mobility could look like.

A compact city car stops in the middle of the street, a few yards from a very tight parking space. Both driver and passenger get out, much to the surprise of passersby. Are they really going to leave the car parked like that? No, they aren’t. The driver taps his smartwatch, and the empty car starts moving by itself, automatically reversing back into the tight parking space. In a single, smooth motion – making for quite a show. In particular, what it demonstrates is the very tight turning angle of the front wheels which, for a few moments, looked as if they were turned at a 90-degree angle to their wheel housings. By now it is quite clear that there is something different about this car.

And the answer to this puzzle is called the “Advanced Urban Vehicle,” a concept vehicle from ZF that is an extremely agile, locally emission-free, all-electric car. It is also equipped with many smart assistance functions designed to relieve the driver of irritating drive operations – like cranking the steering wheel when parallel parking, to name but one. “With this concept, we are exploring solutions for the compact and subcompact vehicle segment, which will be required for meeting the future demands of individual urban mobility,” explains Dr. Harald Naunheimer, Head of Corporate Research & Development at ZF.

Drivers can step out of the vehicle and start the parking maneuver from the outside using an app on a smart device. Thanks to the extreme turning angle of the front wheels tight parking places that are close to parking obstacles can be used.

The “Smart Parking Assist” feature described above is one of these solutions. Ultrasound and infrared sensors mounted around the car scan the car‘s surroundings and keep an eye out for parking places. If the car finds one, the driver receives a message on the display. All the driver has to do now is sit tight and let the car do the parking. The parking assist steers the car and controls the maneuver by means of the sensors and an additional camera in the rear. The system-capable electric power steering system moves the steering wheel as if by magic. It detects whether the driver has his or her hands on the wheel or not thanks to its “hands-on detection” feature. Or the occupants can first step out of the vehicle and then start the parking maneuver from the outside using an app on a smart device.

Drive, steering, and axle working as a team

The basic idea of the smart parker is to achieve the perfect interaction between driveline and chassis, combined with an intelligent system network. The turning angle of the front wheels is extreme at 75 degrees – and verges on a right angle of 90 degrees. A specially designed front axle combined with a customized electric power steering system and other design changes to the wheel housing made this tight turning angle possible. Conventionally powered vehicles would be unable to handle such a tight turning angle – they could not use it from a standstill and would literally “trip over” their turned-out front wheels. Not so with the Advanced Urban Vehicle. The two electric motors integrated in the rear axle mounted near the wheels power the vehicle with a total of 80 kilowatts of output, delivering a top speed of 93 mph.

The torque vectoring system distributes the torque individually to each wheel. If the left wheel stops moving while the right wheel moves forward, the car, including its rear end, moves to the left – and in doing so supports the left-hand drive of the tightly turned front wheels. This interaction between hardware and software, chassis and steering, drive and system network makes it possible for the 12-foot Advanced Urban Vehicle to slip into a parking space just over 14 feet long in a single move. It also has an exceptionally tight turning circle of 21.33 feet, which means that a quick U-turn on a two-lane road is no problem at all.

Video: Advanced Urban Vehicle meets practice

Stress-free parking using a smartwatch – now possible thanks to ZF’s Advanced Urban Vehicle. Find out more in our video.

Collective intelligence thanks to connectivity

This prototype car is also highly efficient when it comes to getting around outside the city in the suburbs. An additional feature called “PreVision Cloud Assist” gathers information on types of road, such as an oncoming curve, from the cloud well in advance, compares it with the vehicle data, and calculates the optimal speed for driving through it. If the car goes too fast, PreVision Cloud Assist cuts the torque in time – an action typically called “taking the foot off the pedal.” This feature reduces the loss of drive energy compared to normal cases in which the driver would step on the brake. The system functions in both directions with the Advanced Urban Vehicle also storing data in the cloud. If such a concept goes into volume production, all cars that are equipped with such a system will accumulate a wealth of information that they or others will later have access to.

A display on the steering wheel rim informs the driver which mode the car is currently being 
operated in.

PreVision Cloud Assist does not intervene without the driver knowing. A small OLED display in the steering wheel keeps the driver informed at all times. A mode switch allows the driver to activate sporty or normal control. “The assistance systems in our concept study can already be implemented because existing technologies in the car can be networked with one another,” explains Dr. Harald Naunheimer. “Driver commands and driver behavior interact with the environment of the car, which also accesses very general data such as maps or weather information.” The Advanced Urban Vehicle is an example of potential innovation from the merged ZF and TRW companies. The electric power steering system, steering wheel, sensors, and rear camera were developed by the worldwide leading safety systems specialist.

Photos: Volker Martin, Detlef Majer, Getty Images, ZF

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