How this dummy car tests collision detection systems in your car

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are common in modern day cars.
  • Blind spot detection, automatic lane changing, and automatic braking are some of the best-known features of ADAS.
  • The Guided Soft Target is used to test these systems without the risk of crashing a real vehicle.

Narrator: Don’t worry, this isn’t a real car. It’s actually used to make your car safer.

How this dummy car helps prevent accidents.

Narrator: Every new model of car is more advanced and, theoretically, safer than the last. A whole host of engineers, designers, and technicians toiled to incorporate technologies in your car that help prevent injuries or collisions altogether. Blind spot detection. Automatic lane changing. Automatic braking. These Advanced Driver Assistance Systems or ADAS are common in almost all modern cars today. This technology is designed to keep drivers safe even if they didn’t realise they were in danger. That requires a lot of faith on behalf of the driver in systems most have never seen work in person. How much should we trust these technologies? And how do we know they will work when the time comes?

This is the Guided Soft Target or GST. It looks like a normal car. It has the shape of your standard sedan and even has reflective lights and licence plate. Most importantly, it has the radar signature of a regular car which means, to an Advanced Driver Assist System the GST is indistinguishable from the real thing. This also means you don’t need to risk crashing a real car to prove driver assistance technology works. The experts at AB Dynamics spoke to us about how this dummy soft car is ideal for use in development and testing.

Andrew Pick: The advantage of using the GST, is that if the system fails to respond and work as planned then in the event of a collision, rather than there being major damage to the test vehicle, there is no damage. It’s just a question of rebuilding the foam car body and running the test a second time.

Leo Evans: You use a GST to safely create dangerous scenarios at a test track and you can do it repeatably and fully synchronised with our in-car driving robots.

Andrew Pick: We run these tests using path-following control for robot-controlled vehicles. We can guarantee that the car stays exactly in the lane and follows the GST with very high precision. We also control the distance between the cars. We know the position of every vehicle via an accurate GPS and we can accurately measure the relative distances between vehicles so that we can control the vehicles to be on a precise collision path as required by these tests.

Narrators: This GST is being used in a car-to-car braking scenario to test the automatic emergency braking system in the chase car. Both cars are set to 50 km/h or 31 mph with a distance between them of 12 meters or around 39 feet. At some point, the GST will stop suddenly replicating an emergency stop. An inattentive driver, failing to notice this would fail to brake, resulting in a serious crash. It’s the job of the automatic emergency braking system to take notice of the stopped car and apply the brakes if the driver does not. Immediately after the test both cars are restored to their original positions by robots to run the same tests again, and in quick succession.

Leo Evans: Automotive manufacturers will typically embark on an R&D campaign for each feature or set of features and this will involve each day repeating a test a dozen times to refine the system.

Narrators: AB Dynamics says the GST is used by most of the world’s major car developers in both development and testing.

Leo Evans: The GST is an indispensable tool for nearly every major automotive manufacturer around the world. And they need it to safely test and develop their ADAS and autonomous systems. The GST is also invaluable as it’s used for Euro NCAP test houses. Euro NCAP is the European New Car Assessment Programme. The test houses use the GST to test and rate the active safety features of new vehicles according to the most recent Euro NCAP specification. And so far we’ve sold 70 GSTs worldwide.

Narrators: Other parties look to AB Dynamics to test their tech too. Companies with proprietary ADAS technology to sell to car manufacturers also live and die by rigorous testing with the GST. Before you ever use the automated features in your car the technology may have been tested hundreds of times by the GST.

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