Technology

#AutonomousEverything

Is There a Clear Man-Machine Understanding?

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Tags: ZeroAccidents, AutonomousDriving, Safety

Are you driving, or am I? But rather than tossing the keys to your partner, this question is now also being asked between man and machine.
Achim Neuwirth, September 03, 2019
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Achim Neuwirth has been writing for ZF since 2011. He has specialized in writing texts about all kinds of car-related topics: from vehicles to the technology behind them, to driving and traffic.
Stefan Knöss, Safe Mobility Systems (DIAS) engineer in the ZF corporate Advanced Engineering department, describes how this can work seamlessly.

An adaptive cruise control here, a Lane Keeping Assist there, a blind-spot warning system somewhere else – might the number of assistants in modern vehicles be too much of a good thing?

An adaptive cruise control here, a Lane Keeping Assist there, a blind-spot warning system somewhere else – might the number of assistants in modern vehicles be too much of a good thing?

Quite the contrary. Anyone genuinely serious about Vision Zero, the goal of ending motoring accidents, should be in favor of electronic assistance and of automation. After all, failure is human, and it is estimated to be responsible for 90-plus percent of all crashes. Systems can help to prevent that, or can mitigate the consequences. However, the present way that these helpers provide information and notifications to drivers is not always executed in the best possible way.

Can the complexity of assistance systems be overwhelming?

Can the complexity of assistance systems be overwhelming?

It does happen. Spontaneous warning sights and sounds, haptic feedback in the steering wheel and seat and other feedback control interventions that you may not immediately be able to identify have the potential to confuse drivers. Regrettably, this is where a gulf rapidly opens up between the perceived and the actual gain in safety. Furthermore, drivers often no longer know which electronic assistants they have on board. Or how to set these up to best benefit them. Anyone who finds these assistants too distracting or too complicated may soon switch them off. The step for a car driver between “I don’t understand it” to “I don’t need it” is a short one.
Stefan Knöss showing the SHI Cockpit.

That might perhaps not sound like great news for automated driving?

That might perhaps not sound like great news for automated driving?

When a human being hands over control to the onboard computer, all aspects of communication must be crystal clear. Of course, the same is also true in reverse, when the vehicle calls upon the driver to resume control of driving the vehicle. It needs to be absolutely clear who is doing what, and who is responsible for which control-related tasks. We speak of mode awareness in this context.

These are tough demands. How can they be implemented?

These are tough demands. How can they be implemented?

At ZF, we will make best friends of drivers and electronic pilots. In future, anyone taking charge of driving a vehicle should feel entirely at home, and should understand and have confidence in the on-board electronic helpers. Our Safe Human Interaction Cockpit, or SHI Cockpit for short, made by ZF in partnership with Faurecia, demonstrates that this can work. In addition, to enhanced safety, we also have enhanced comfort.

What does a ride within an SHI Cockpit look like?

What does a ride within an SHI Cockpit look like?

Let us further assume that the vehicle signals its wish to engage in automated driving, and that I wish for it to do so. In that case, I take my hands off the steering wheel. In response, the steering wheel rises and retracts forward. In this position, it actually stops moving in response to the steered angles of the front wheels. Instead, steer by wire is in charge. At the same time, the seat moves noticeably backward and downward, and inclines to a steeper angle. I can let myself be driven in a relaxed way, with the steering wheel and pedals still within reach.

Well then, what happens if the system decides to return control to you?

Well then, what happens if the system decides to return control to you?

Everything stays relaxed. The SHI Cockpit quite literally guides me back to my duties as a driver. The seat and steering wheel move automatically into manual driving position. We use a human voice, a circulating light strip, and a vibrating seat belt to provide more information to the driver in addition to the display warnings. The SHI Cockpit combines these signals in a range of ways, and with increasing intensity, depending upon how well and how quickly the driver follows prompts to take action.

Let us assume that a driver ignores everything that the SHI Cockpit wishes him or her to do.

Let us assume that a driver ignores everything that the SHI Cockpit wishes him or her to do.

In this case, the vehicle can be programmed to stops automatically at an appropriate location determined by onboard sensing systems monitoring the vehicle environment. Safety is a fundamental requirement for us in relation to automation. We also maintain a high standard of occupant safety in the SHI Cockpit with the extended seat and steering wheel positions. Some of the airbags and active seat belts are integrated in the seat. The seat was completely rethought in cooperation with our partner Faurecia. This gives the SHI Cockpit realistic prospects for implementation. I think that this distinguishes it from many of the other interior space concepts dedicated to assisted and automated driving. For practical tests, we not only built a static demonstrator but we also constructed an actual test vehicle. All of the feedback from test candidates has been very positive so far.
“Our Safe Human Interaction Cockpit shows how well you can achieve a spontaneous understanding with all of the electronic helpers on board.”
— Stefan Knöss

You mentioned new comfort functions: What is the status of these?

You mentioned new comfort functions: What is the status of these?

They were extremely well received indeed. They come into play even before the vehicle sets off. The seat waits in a retracted, inclined position. The flattened steering wheel is folded up and rotated slightly. These two factors make it much more comfortable to board the vehicle. Then the interior camera becomes active and recognizes the stature of the person. The seat and steering wheel move the driver into the proper position for driving the vehicle manually. To make it easy to exit the vehicle, everything returns to the comfort position when the vehicle is turned off. The combination of ZF and Faurecia products solutions offer the best possible comfort for the users during ingress and egress.

How does the SHI Cockpit help vehicle drivers to interact better with the assistance systems while in manual driving mode?

How does the SHI Cockpit help vehicle drivers to interact better with the assistance systems while in manual driving mode?

A central aspect of this is the Active Vehicle Aura, known by its abbreviation AVA. This functions at two levels. First, we have networked all of the assistance systems together in a new way such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, and lane keeping assist. At the second and visible level, we went to great lengths to ensure that AVA presents itself to the driver in an absolutely clear way, specifically on a central monitor in the cockpit, in the form of up to three oval lines. These oval lines are arranged around the virtual vehicle that is depicted together with its surroundings.

According to the EU, from 2024 almost
20
assistance systems will be mandatory in every personal vehicle. Many passenger cars will have substantially more high-tech co-pilots on board. In ZF’s Safe Human Interaction Cockpit, drivers can keep an eye on and physical control of these helpers in a remarkably simple way.

Does this make it easier to tell when electronic helpers get enabled?

Does this make it easier to tell when electronic helpers get enabled?

Definitely. Whenever AVA detects a potential hazard, the lines on the screen change color and shape at the relevant location. This can for example happen if a driver initiates a change of lane despite the presence of another vehicle in his blind spot. This is shown on the screen display and the assist systems simultaneously intervene to counteract this action and help prevent an accident.

However, is the adjustment as easy to comprehend as the screen display?

However, is the adjustment as easy to comprehend as the screen display?

The pressure of just one finger on the steering wheel determines just how sensitively AVA responds to road traffic conditions. When three lines are displayed, all of the assistants intervene gently and at an early stage. If there is just one oval, they intervene later and more forcefully. In the SHI Cockpit, working with complex systems for the driver is therefore always simple, regardless of whether driving manually or being driven by an electronic new best friend.

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