Continental (Germany) has received the ÖkoGlobe 2011 environmental prize in the category “Supplier Innovations”. The ÖkoGlobe is awarded by the DEVK insurance (Germany) and the ACV automobile club (Germany) in cooperation with the ÖkoGlobe Institute at the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany).
Due to the combination of the Electronic Horizon sub-system and the AFFP pedal, drivers are assisted in anticipating the road ahead and are, therefore, able to drive more fuel efficient
DUE TO THE COMBINATION of Continental’s Electronic Horizon and Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP), drivers are assisted in anticipating the road ahead. This allows driving more fuel-efficient. In addition, this combination of hardware and software enhances driving safety as well as comfort. Unseen by the driver, the Electronic Horizon provides a digital preview of the prospective route for the other vehicle systems via the on-board CAN network, with information on both the vehicle (position, direction, speed) and the road ahead (type of road, speed limits and topographical information such as curve radii and gradients). In this way the Electronic Horizon has information available on things a driver cannot yet see around a curve or at the top of an incline. Accordingly, the AFFP uses this information for its advice to the driver. An example is that the pedal can alert the driver in good time to situations that are not even in sight – such as a tailback or a red light around the next bend. In urban motoring, the system can also issue discreet prompts that help the driver catch a series of traffic lights on green.
“We are delighted with this special award, because it rewards all our cross-divisional efforts with which we make driving even safer, eco-friendlier and more comfortable,” noted Helmut Matschi working with Continental. “Progress in safety and environmental protection in road transport are increasingly more often the result of intelligent networking innovations from various sectors. The usability of car systems plays a major role in our developments alongside the networking of different electronic systems.”
The combination of the two winning innovations from Continental shows, how much it takes in the development of new components and systems to attain a perfectly coordinated cooperation in different areas of automotive electronics. With the awarded concept it is possible to use navigation data to support other vehicle systems. The anticipatory data lets the system know what to expect up ahead on the road and passes important information on to other control units or the AFFP, which the direct contact to the driver. It generates a haptic signal, which corresponds to the driving situation and helps the driver to adapt his driving style in accordance with what lies on the road ahead.
The awarded technologies can also be used by many other vehicle systems. Depending on the configuration level, the engine and transmission management system can auto-adjust for anticipatory driving thereby increasing energy efficiency. The Electronic Horizon makes for improved dynamic speed control, optimized curve warning systems and traffic sign recognition, as well as more efficient interaction between individual drive systems in hybrid and electric vehicles. The system is available in several different variants: It can either be integrated into a navigation system, function as a distinct control unit, or provide additional software for another control unit. The haptic signal of the AFFP can take the form of a light double-ticking to prompt the driver to shift to a more fuel-efficient gear, a counter-force, when the vehicle is dangerously tailing another vehicle, or vibrations to warn of an acute crash risk. As the signal comes directly to the foot of the driver, they can respond intuitively and are able to gain a feel for how to actively reduce consumption. Trials have shown that drivers recognize this type of signal quicker than optical or acoustic indicators.
The mechanical core of the AFFP is an active module (actuator and electronics) connected to the passive accelerator pedal. It is an electrical motor, which is linked to the accelerator and which can generate a haptic signal in the form of a counterforce in the pedal. The pedal's active and passive functions are designed in such a way that it is not possible for the active function to counteract – let alone negate – the effect of the return springs of the passive pedal. This means that the actuator cannot cause the vehicle to accelerate and the required passive pedal return force is maintained at all times.
Broadly speaking, vehicle manufacturers are free to choose for themselves exactly how they implement the AFFP functions in their vehicles and what type or intensity of signal they use for the pedal feedback. For example, the pedal can vibrate twice to indicate the ideal gearshift point; increased counterforce can prompt the driver to lift the foot off the accelerator; or distinct vibration can warn of hazards, such as when a safe distance to the vehicle in front is no longer maintained.
AFFP is therefore an adaptable interface that allows vehicle manufacturers to choose the configuration of features – increased safety, greater comfort through reduced driver stress, or lower fuel consumption – that they wish to implement. Such is the adaptability of the AFFP sub-system that a driver's personal preferences for a particular type of signal can be entered into the system memory. These settings are then automatically recalled as soon as the driver's personal ignition key is identified. The necessary communication is done via the in-vehicle CAN network.
The pedal can be fitted to any type of vehicle and is also compatible with new hybrid or electric vehicles. It is available in both suspended and floor-mounted pedal versions, which means that small or heavy trucks can also be equipped with the AFFP. “It is extremely important to take total cost into account, particularly in the transport industry. Using the Electronic Horizon and the AFFP will have a very positive impact on costs and CO2 emissions in this area,” Dr. Michael Ruf, Head of the Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket Business Unit at Continental, confidently affirms.
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