Mercedes-Benz Driver Assistance Systems: Test Facilities and Tools: Non-Stop Focus on Critical Driving Maneuvers
Sindelfingen, May 2, 2017 – Even before ready-to-drive prototypes exist, new assistance systems at Mercedes-Benz have long proved their worth in highly realistic driving maneuvers in a driving simulator. As a next step, test drives are then carried out on enclosed test sites such as the purpose-built “SimCity” in Sindelfingen. And finally, before market launch, practical trials covering millions of miles are conducted on public roads.
Numerous simulators are employed as standard practice in the development and testing of new vehicles at Mercedes-Benz. “Digital prototypes” of a vehicle, created with the aid of high-performance computers, allow comprehensive testing of a new model in many driving situations before the actual vehicle exists in real life. The best possible development results are obtained by intelligently combining state-of-the-art simulation methods with highly intensive practical trials covering millions of miles The latter remain an indispensable part of the development process. As such, simulation and simulators are no substitute for real-life tests, but rather serve to supplement these tests.
The Moving Base Driving Simulator is an important test facility. It allows the safety experts at Mercedes-Benz to realistically simulate highly dynamic maneuvers such as lane changes, so as to conduct intensive research into driver and vehicle behavior on the road. Normal car drivers are able to approach the physical limits of driving performance with absolutely no danger, providing Mercedes-Benz engineers with invaluable findings on the acceptance and operation of new safety systems.
With its 360° screen, fast electric power system and the twelve-meter-long rail for transverse or longitudinal movements, the Moving Base simulator at Mercedes-Benz is among the most capable in the entire automotive industry. It was commissioned at the end of 2010.
One of the test sites at which new assistance systems can be tested away from the public roads is located at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Center (MTC) in Sindelfingen. Numerous critical driving maneuvers can be staged on the large asphalt surface: the test vehicles drive towards dummies at different speeds, or are put on a collision course with stationary or moving vehicle mockups. These also include the Balloon Cars developed by Mercedes-Benz safety experts for test and demonstration purposes. With these, the operation of radar-based driving assistance systems such as Active Brake Assist can be tested without danger. To this end the Balloon Car is attached to the trailer coupling of a vehicle travelling ahead. A test car equipped with the assistance system follows this trailer combination. Its radar is able to register the Balloon Car, as this has a corresponding structure under its soft skin.
The latest development stage is even able to do without a towing vehicle: a GPS-controlled self-driving platform carrying a relevant obstacle can be programmed with any required trajectories and moved around the open area at up to 70 km/h (43 ft). This enables simulation of the most diverse scenarios, from a stationary or stopping vehicle through slow vehicles ahead to vehicles veering into or out of the lane or even cross traffic. In the future, such a platform will also be used for test maneuvers in the Euro NCAP.
And it is not always flesh-and-blood test drivers who are at the wheel of the test cars – in 2010 Mercedes-Benz was the first automobile manufacturer to include an innovative testing method in its portfolio of test procedures: driving maneuvers that are critical to safety and cannot be precisely reproduced by humans are performed on enclosed test sites by autopilots. This “automated driving” assists in the development, testing and verification of assistance systems and other safety features. This makes it possible to carry out tests at critical limits safely and without endangering the developers. And there is a decisive advantage for Mercedes-Benz customers: as such tests can be conducted with the utmost precision, future assistance systems can be developed and verified with the quality expected of Mercedes-Benz, despite increasing complexity.
New testing possibilities for assistance systems have now been opened up by the Technology Center for Vehicle Safety (TFS), which commenced operations in November 2016. Its angled test track makes it possible to test active driving assistance systems with braking and steering intervention. A mobile crash block can be positioned on the angled surface as required. The vehicle is powered by a draw cable or its own engine.
Basic research: Tech Center a-drive
In January 2016 Daimler transformed its already close cooperation with the University of Ulm, the FZI research center for information technology and the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe (KIT) into a strategic partnership with the Tech Center a-drive. This is where engineers and computer scientists jointly develop methods, algorithms, actuators and sensors. In parallel with the technical challenges, social questions relating to responsibility and liability are also addressed. The aim is to rapidly evaluate the findings from basic research with field trials, so as to accelerate the development process.