SPARCProject reference: 507859
Funded under: FP6-IST
Secure Propulsion using Advanced Redundant Control [Print to PDF] [Print to RTF]
Total cost:EUR 12 598 247
EU contribution:EUR 6 499 985
Call for proposal:FP6-2002-IST-1
Funding scheme:STREP - Specific Targeted Research Project
Virtual co-pilot to reduce road deaths
Vehicles that can foresee dangers and respond automatically to changing road conditions, traffic and driver mistakes could start rolling along Europe’s roads in the near future.
Though still prototypes, the vehicles developed by researchers working in the SPARC project sit on the cusp of a new generation of cars and trucks that promise to improve road safety dramatically.
Using a combination of sensors, automated decision-support systems and innovative control mechanisms, the smart vehicles help counteract the single biggest cause of traffic accidents: driver error.
Correcting human error
Mistakes by drivers – whether brought on by inattention, fatigue, drinking or simply carelessness – are estimated to cause 95% of the 40 000 fatal accidents that occur on Europe’s roads each year.
Preventing or correcting mistakes by drivers is therefore seen as the single most important way of reducing the number of accidents and meeting the EU’s target of cutting the number of road deaths by half over the coming years. The technology developed in the SPARC project would help achieve that once it makes its way onto the market.
Tested in cars and trucks
The SPARC system has so far been deployed in two prototype vehicles: a Mercedes-Benz Actros truck and a small Smart car built by project coordinator DaimlerChrysler.
Unlike most modern vehicles that use mechanical components to control the vehicle, both prototypes were designed with electromechanical systems.
Known as ‘x-by-wire’ or ‘drive-by-wire’, the electronic control system is similar to the technology used to fly aircraft with high precision by turning driver commands into electronic signals that are fed through an onboard computer.
X-by-wire not only gives drivers more control over their vehicles, they also allow automated systems to lend a helping hand.
A control system that can make decisions constitutes a kind of virtual co-pilot. Using information gathered from several sources – such as cameras, radar, GPS and a human-machine interface – the SPARC system can reliably monitor road conditions and driver behaviour.
It can predict upcoming hazards and respond to them if the driver does not. The system could, for example, slow the car down if the driver is approaching a sharp bend too fast, or pull the truck over to the side of the road if it detects that the driver has fallen asleep.
Cars driving themselves?
Though the system leaves the driver in control for most of the journey, it instantly steps in and takes corrective measures as soon as it detects an imminent risk – be it a braking car in front or an erratic turn of the wheel.
However, much of the technology developed by the researchers in the SPARC project could contribute to the development of vehicles that drive themselves. In theory, fully automated vehicles that take the human driver out of the equation could be even safer still.
The goal of SPARC is to substantially improve traffic safety and efficiency for heavy goods vehicles usingintelligent x-by-wire technologies in the powertrain. To prove this standardised concept a SW/HW platform will bedeveloped that is scalable down to small passenger cars (sPC) and be integrated therein.Natural motion is described by a vector (direction and velocity). The driver creates the desired motion vector,while being supported by an exchangeable HMI. Additionally a safety assistance and evaluation system (basedon an interactive display information system using satellite navigation systems (GPS) and a smart camera toinspect the environment) creates another motion vector in parallel (the redundant vector).Both vectors are input to the Safety Decision Control System (DCS). The DCS will run on a central redundantcabin-ECU. The DCS will avoid accidents by compensating for driver failure probability (driver incapacity, deadman state) by generating a secure motion vector based on a comparison of both vectors. This secure vector willbe passed onto the extended X-by-Wire powertrain. The switch from reactive active safety to preventive active safety created by the SPARC- vehicles will constitutea breakthrough in road safety technology by pursuing the following main technical objectives:1. Development of an accident-avoiding vehicle using a DCS, which compensates driver failure probability (driverincapacity, dead man state, etc.).2. Extend concept of heavy goods vehicle to full tractor-trailer combination.3. Describe and validate clear SW/HW-interfaces for automotive redundant control systems to combine resultsfrom PReVENT, AIDE and PEIT.4. Validate the scalability of the concept by transferring it from heavy-duty trucks to small passenger cars. Twovalidator vehicles will be built up.5. Describe a harmonised homologation path for scalable SPARC safety system.6. Ensure European technology leadership for intext truncated for the purposes of the ESR
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