DETROIT --- Automotive supplier Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. has developed a variety of driver assistance systems to help automakers meet proposed U.S. safety regulations.
Beginning in the 2010 model year, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is changing its front and side crash-test programs that are the basis for NHTSA's five-star safety rating system under the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).
At the Convergence 2008 conference and exposition (Oct. 20-22 at Cobo Center in Detroit), Hella demonstrates how technologies such as lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control systems -- proven crash avoidance technologies in production today -- can help vehicle manufacturers achieve NHTSA's coveted five-star status, the agency's highest safety rating.
"Research by NHTSA and others has shown that many consumers are unaware of the potential safety benefits of these technologies," explained Dr. Martin Fischer, president of Hella Corporate Center USA with responsibility for the automotive supplier's lighting, electronics and aftermarket business units in the United States. "For years, Hella has been working with its customers and partners on driver assistance systems because safety does sell."
Hella is supplying the 2009 Opel Insignia, a General Motors brand sold in Europe, with a camera system that warns drivers of unintended lane departures. With an optional camera mounted at the base of the rearview mirror, Hella's LDW system works at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour.
The system's signal processor filters pictures taken by a front camera, looking for lines and longitudinal structures to recognize traffic lanes. Thanks to special algorithms and by monitoring steering wheel movements, LDW only issues a warning in hazardous situations.
"Our LDW system can combat the dangerous phenomena known as microsleep or driver distraction where vehicles unintentionally stray into oncoming traffic," Fischer added. "It provides the driver with visual, sound or vibration signals to help prevent side collisions."
In addition to electronics technologies that contribute to the NCAP five-star rating, there are several other driver assistance systems, currently available from Hella, which have the potential to reduce vehicle crashes.
Many of the technologies included in Hella's portfolio of driver assistance systems are based on camera and ultrasonic technology, as well as LIDAR-based (Light Detection and Ranging) and 24-GHz radar. They include:
-- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC): In production on the 2009 Chrysler 300, ACC uses LIDAR, which sends out infrared signals to detect a vehicle ahead. It allows cruise control to remain engaged in light to moderate traffic conditions without the need for constant adjustments. Hella's ACC offers significant security advantages by helping keep vehicles at a specified distance and warns drivers by automatically triggering the brakes.
-- Adaptive Bend-Lighting: Available as an option on the BMW 5 Series along with the Static Cornering Light, these headlights nearly double the low-beams' range when a vehicle rounds a corner. The system, which also works on the high-beams, is controlled by the steering-wheel angle, yaw rate and vehicle speed.
-- Adaptive Cut-Off Light: This device adjusts the range of a vehicle's adaptive front-lighting system to provide optimum visibility, allowing the beams to reach as far as possible. The headlight range is altered depending upon traffic conditions.
-- Alertness Assistant: Placing a camera in the steering-wheel area facing the driver, it detects eyelid blinks. If the driver's eyes close for longer than 1.5 seconds, the alert assistant will sound a wake-up beep or other suitable warning signal.
-- Distance Warning: Using a 24-GHz radar sensor, this accident avoidance technology determines the relative speed and distance of vehicles ahead of the customer's car and sounds a warning if the distance becomes too close.
-- Glare-Free High Beams: The glare from oncoming headlights is a concern for nighttime drivers. Hella's glare-free high beams automatically change light distribution when an oncoming vehicle is detected, providing maximum visibility for both drivers.
-- Lane Change Assist: Using a 24-GHz radar-based system, lane-change assist monitors the right and left lanes up to a range of 200 feet. It warns the driver if other vehicles are in the "blind spots" to prevent accidents.
-- Marking Light: Another use of adaptive front lighting technology, this accident-avoidance system detects people and points of danger and illuminates them with special marker lights.
-- Parking Assistant: The electronic parking assistant allows the driver to park comfortably and safely in most parallel parking spaces. When driving past an open area, an ultrasonic sensor measures the space. If the space is large enough, the parking procedure can be started. The driver operates only the accelerator and the brake pedal. The turning of the steering wheel takes place automatically and helps avoid "fender benders."
-- Traffic-Sign Recognition: Found on General Motors' new Opel Insignia in Europe, this system uses a front camera and software to detect and identify traffic signs. It can be used to warn drivers if they are traveling too fast and thus prevent accidents due to inappropriate speed.
"The aim of Hella research and development is to further increase customer safety by combining sensors and functionalities," Fischer noted. "Our objective is to greatly reduce traffic accidents and injuries by providing safety systems for the broadest possible range of vehicles. This is the point of the NCAP star rating system."
Future light-based driver assistance systems will give optimum road space illumination for drivers. Hella specialists also are developing adaptive lighting technologies that assist in pedestrian and object detection using a camera.
Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. develops and manufactures lighting and electronics components and systems for the automotive industry. Its joint venture companies also produce complete vehicle modules and air conditioning systems.
In addition, Hella has one of the largest aftermarket organizations in the world for automotive parts and accessories, with its own sales companies and partners in more than 100 countries.