Category Archives: ADAS

Coming to a Test Track Near You…

…Well almost. MIRA and Heyford Park, to be exact.

We have got ourselves a hospitality trailer. Why? Well I detect a bit of a trend with the trade shows we do: they’re still worthwhile but slowly becoming less so, with fewer of the engineers and decision makers that we’re used to seeing. They can’t get out of the office: too much on their plate.

So we thought we’d go to them. We’re parking up at MIRA Proving Ground where a lot of our UK customers are based, on the 12th May; and then to Heyford Park in Oxfordshire two days later.

The best thing about this is that we aren’t limited to what we can show people on an exhibition stand – we can actually demonstrate things. We’ll have a braking setup, a steering robot (courtesy of ABD), and a couple of cars showing vehicle separation/ADAS. And if you’re not in one of those demos, come into the trailer for coffee, cake, and a chat.

Once we’ve completed our UK dates, the trailer heads off to Europe where it will visit the likes of Renault, Goodyear, and Continental. I suspect that in 2016 we’ll look to hire some facilities in Germany and invite a whole load of customers along for the day.

Look out for the splashy BMW on the motorway.



Park Assist Testing

Park-assist is a brilliant thing, isn’t it? And it shouldn’t even be called “park-assist” – it should just be called “park”, because that’s what the latest cars do. On their own. I love it.

OK so most of them need you to apply the throttle but it’s still a great aid. My colleague Matthias who works in our German office had an interesting day recently, testing a whole load of different manufacturer’s park assist capabilities. He did this for AutoBild magazine which is renowned for carrying out some pretty comprehensive consumer testing and whose editorial carries a lot of weight with the car buying public.


Using the VBOX ADAS test system he mapped the parking space. It’s actually the Lane Departure mode that is running when the car performs the manoeuvre – we’ve changed the firmware: now four contact points of the vehicle are input so that the car’s profile can be accurately measured against the lane edge.


Then a VBOX HD was also set up to film the cars as they backed into the space with the separation data all being logged and displayed. Nine cars were tested, from VW, BMW/Mini, Hyundai, Peugeot, Audi, Mercedes, Ford, and Skoda.



This video shows the Skoda backing into a space barely 60cm bigger than the car’s length:



The Next Step in ADAS Testing

Autonomous driving is a popular topic at the moment, with various announcements from manufacturers who are confident that their cars will be doing the driving for us within a surprisingly short time frame. Some predictions state 2020 as the year by which the technology and infrastructure will be in place to make this a reality.

Whether or not this is feasible, there is no denying the leaps in technology that will, ultimately, deliver personal transport in which every vehicle occupant is a passenger. It could be argued that autonomous driving is already here: cars can now park and brake independently; Tesla have recently demonstrated their auto-pilot feature which controls speed based on traffic sign recognition; Volvo assure us that in five to ten years, their commercial vehicles will be constantly scanning every pedestrian, cyclist, and item of roadside furniture within the truck’s vicinity, then acting upon what it sees.

The combination of radar, lidar, GPS, and vision will ensure the current methods of advanced driver assistance will eventually morph into the actual drivers themselves.

Developing, then testing, and finally validating these systems has given rise to an automotive testing market that has seen dramatic upheaval in the last decade and it means that whilst we maintain a core competency in vehicle dynamics testing, recent years have seen significant development in providing test and validation solutions for ADAS. A recent update (firmware version 2.1) to the VBOX 3i SL-RTK introduces some interesting new features.

Testing Vision Enhancements

Traffic sign recognition systems are due to be greatly improved thanks to a new generation of high-definition cameras with better range than the current VGA resolution units. The new systems need to be tested for this greater range and a higher number of potential recognition markers, so the VBOX Multiple Static Points application allows for up to one hundred such targets to be surveyed, creating a GPS map of their locations.


The desired minimum and maximum detection angle and distance for these targets are then set, and the vehicle driven along the route. When the points fall within the detection zone, the range, angle, and time-to-collision parameters of up to five of them are simultaneously displayed and logged, with further targets being tracked as the closer ones are passed by. The GPS data is then compared to the performance of the system under test.


Read the rest of this article here.

Mira Goes Live

Mira Proving Ground have recently introduced a resource which has the potential to be of great assistance to VBOX customers.

I was over there recently to test whether the signal they output from a permanently installed base station is compatible with our kit. Indeed it is – and they now transmit an RTK correction signal to just about every part of the facility. This is a seriously useful feature they’re offering: it means that if you’ve got a VBOX3i RTK and our latest radio modems, you can just rock up and start testing with 2cm positional accuracy.


If you’re carrying out tests that require a high level of positional accuracy – so ADAS validation or development, for instance – you’ll be able to get on with it pretty much immediately without having to first set up a base station.

One of the happy by-products to this is consistency in brake testing. Although positional accuracy to 2cm isn’t necessary to measure stopping distance, it does allow for comparison of results taken from differing areas of the track, which wears in the same way that any road surface does and can lead to sometimes puzzling results. The enhancement of knowing precisely at which point of the road surface the tests are carried out can iron out these anomalous results.

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Asta La Vista, Baby

Back to Sweden again recently, where I got a chance to visit a very interesting place – the ASTAZero proving ground, nearing completion in time for its official opening next year.

This is a joint collaboration between Swedish governmental institutions, industry, and academia – but with a focus on international development of traffic safety systems. It’s big, with a total paved surface area of some 250,000 square metres.


So, it’s a new proving ground. So what? Well the difference here is the nature of the testing that is at the heart of ASTA’s mission. For the first time a facility is being built completely dedicated to the development of active safety systems.

Here’s a bit from their brochure: “…a testbed for advanced active safety where almost any conceivable kind of test will be possible, whether to examine the functions of, for example, autonomous or connected vehicles, platooning, or driver behaviour.”

Some interesting words being used here – ‘platooning’ in particular. I always wondered what term would be applied to groups of connected vehicles, travelling within a few centimetres of each other with minimal driver input. I wonder if it will stick.

ASTA stands for Active Safety Test Area. The Zero? That conveys the facility’s vision: to help bring the number of automotive related fatalities down to nothing. A high ideal, but a commendable one and I wish them every success.

You can find out more about ASTAZero on their website:

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Sweeping changes

Australian Road Trains. Have you seen these things? They’re unbelievable – the longest can be over 50 metres long. Whilst the US, Canada, Mexico and a couple of Scandinavian countries allow LCVs (longer combination vehicles, to give them a much drier title) no one does it quite like they do, Down Under.

So we’ve been contacted by someone who needs to be able to measure just how far the trailers or hauling vehicles ingress into adjacent lanes, or off the side of the road. Not easy to do. His current solution is ingenious if a little Heath Robinson: attach hosepipes to each trailer corner, drive the test, and measure the water trails before they dry (which I’ll be willing to bet, in Australia, doesn’t take long.)

Road Train Warning Sign and Roadtrain Just Passing By

My colleague Jake has got stuck in, working out a solution. There are a variety of parameters that need to measured, such as Low Speed Swept Path, Frontal Swing, or the terrifying-sounding High Speed Transient Offtracking, which aims to determine the lateral distance that the last axle on the rearmost trailer tracks outside the path of the steering axle, during a sudden evasive manoeuvre. You wouldn’t want to be in the way of one of these things when it starts to go wrong.

The answer: use our Lane Departure Warning setup and software. This ADAS application has been developed for engineers looking to validate the effectiveness of their Lane Departure Warning systems by first mapping the lane boundaries, and then logging a car’s deviation from them and the angle at which they’re approached.

With a Road Train, you configure the hauling unit as the “lane”, and the trailer as the “subject vehicle” in the software. Once processed, the distance between the hauling and trailing units can be calculated. It works very well.

My colleague has just completed an application note about this, it will be available on our VBOX website soon.

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Driving? Not I.

Have you seen the film “I, Robot”? During one scene, Will Smith’s character is seen to be jumping into his futuristic Audi and not driving. The car does it for him.

Later on he takes control, and his accompanying passenger looks on in terrified disbelief, asking why he’s about to drive manually.

So much for science fiction and Hollywood blockbusters – “I, Robot” is a fun diversion for a couple of hours but none of it is based on reality. Well, almost none of it.

An article from Detroit, bemoaning the fact that in Michigan (the self-styled ‘automotive capital of the World’) the legislation to allow self-driving cars to be tested on the open road hasn’t yet been passed, but it has in Nevada, California, and Florida.

The Michigan State Governor is upset about this, but never mind him. Self driving cars. Cars that drive on their own, are a reality.

So where will this take the testing industry?

Well… the revolution is already established, up and running. We’re about to release a major new software update that will aid test engineers who are developing cars to the latest ISO standards. These regulations form part of the required testing for automated vehicles. Not just things like adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, or lane departure – no, they also cover those vehicles that can control themselves independently of human interaction.

Watch this video, from Volvo. It won’t be long before you are able to read a magazine or do some work on the way into the office whilst your car does the driving.

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Getting the High Five from NCAP

Just got back from the Automotive Testing Expo in Stuttgart, where we had a pretty busy three days. As I expected, our increasing focus on ADAS probably took up 50% or more of the conversations we had on the stand. It’s got me thinking about just how the manufacturers market their new models these days.

It wasn’t too long ago that just about every advert you saw for a new car – TV or print – concentrated on speed and handling. Excitement. Sportiness. But that’s all changed, partially through legislation and political correctness, but also because the sheer volume of regulations – each generating a new acronym – that must be adhered to when developing a new car. Given that we sell equipment for developing the systems that keep people alive, either by accident avoidance or crash protection, we need to be ahead of the curve. Or at least on it.

Stuttgart was full of the current buzz acronym: AEB. Autonomous Emergency Braking. It’s not all that new in terms of concept or even practical application, but the reason so many test engineers mentioned it to me is because of the forthcoming NCAP star rating itinerary. For 2014 there’s going to be a new generation of cars being launched, all with AEB, because Euro NCAP won’t hand out five stars unless they have it. Next year AEB is only necessary for collision mitigation, but for 2016 it will also be for pedestrian protection.

The full NCAP ratings report can be found here.

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Not Your Normal Truckstop

I’ve been in Sweden, training some Volvo Truck development engineers. They use our ADAS testing packages to develop collision mitigation systems, and they showed me some recent footage of their new FH truck, fitted with not only a collision warning system but an emergency brake.

It’s absolutely superb. Watch the video to see what I mean – the truck, on approaching the slow moving car, first warns the driver who doesn’t respond. It then takes things into its own hands and brakes independently. It looks like a truly remarkable driver aid, not to mention a fairly dramatic moment.

The engineers that I met are justifiably proud of what they’ve developed, and rightly so. An advanced driver assistance system with this level of precision is something to be proud of.

But I think the best thing about this footage is something I was told just as we wrapped up the training course: the car in the video, the one that appears to be imminently smashed into by a large Volvo truck, is the test engineer’s personal vehicle. They clearly have an immense confidence in their product. Nice to know that VBOX played a large part in this.

Do I trust a robot to drive me?

These days more and more of my time is being spent working with new solutions for testing ADAS systems.  Last week I was on an airfield down in the West Country with Anthony Best Dynamics (ABD) making sure that our VBOX equipment works with their latest throttle and brake robots.

I think that I am a good driver but even I can’t compete with the accuracy and repeatability that these robots offer.  Using robotic throttle and brake control we were able to accelerate up to 45mph and the target car duly matched our acceleration – with a separation of 30m. Then the robot decelerated the target car at exactly 0.3g. I’ve tried this test manually and we required at least 1km. With the robot in control we had the test completed in 580m. Most impressive.