Las Vegas/Friedrichshafen. ZF's X2Safe intelligent algorithm can help to significantly improve traffic safety because it is capable of warning drivers, pedestrians and cyclists ahead of an impending collision. The company is underlining its claim to play a central role in the development of autonomous driving. With the cloud-based algorithm, it adds another milestone in the digitization of mechanical components. Almost two years after the acquisition of TRW, ZF is now able to present itself as a global, integrated systems supplier – perfectly equipped for the future.
X2Safe can communicate with vehicles, smart phones and smart watches to warn drivers, pedestrians and cyclists of potential collisions and can initiate autonomous or semi-autonomous maneuvers. The algorithm can be used as the basis of car-to-X, X-to-car and even X-to-X applications. The technology can be easily implemented and enable cloud networking for vehicles and all road users. The more people and vehicles that are linked within the interactive safety network, the more effective the accident avoidance can potentially be.
Major advantages for all road users
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are particularly at risk on today’s roads, comprising around 50 percent of the annual 1.25 million deaths caused by traffic accidents worldwide, with adolescents and young adults being the most vulnerable. According to information from the World Health Organization, 500 children around the world die as a result of traffic accidents every day. For young persons aged between 15 to 29, traffic accidents are in fact the most frequent cause of death. Driver and pedestrian distraction pose a great risk – millions of people are on the move through cities and constantly looking down at their cell phones.
Being constantly online could be advantageous for ZF's new technology, especially helping during dangerous situations. Users are continuously submitting movement data to the cloud which the algorithm then uses to calculate whether there is a risk of collision with a vehicle or other road users. In such situations, a collision warning is triggered both in the vehicle and on the smart phone of the other road user before they have seen each other or before the camera and radar systems are able to register a dangerous situation. This could considerably enhance safety: A U.S. study has shown that drivers are distracted for more than half of their journey time.
From warning to active intervention
The beauty of the system is that the algorithm has the capability to individually detect the behavior of all road users in close proximity and react accordingly if needed. If a pedestrian does not wait at a red light or crosses the road at inappropriate points, the algorithm may categorize such behavior as particularly "unsafe" and assume a higher individual risk. In a potentially dangerous situation, the system could warn approaching drivers in cars, while the pedestrian would receive an audible and visible notification on their smart phone or smart watch. The increased level of integrated safety and autonomy of modern vehicles can also enabled vehicle intervention, such as evasive maneuvers and emergency stops. Unlike distance warning systems and cameras, such systems can potentially intervene ahead of an imminent collision if needed.
The interactivity of the system goes far beyond pure car-to-X and X-to-car communication as it applies the context to evaluate the situation. ZF's algorithm is not only capable of processing road user information but also assessing danger zones, such as roads which have poor visibility or bus stops.
"SEE – THINK – ACT" for intelligent mobility
The new technology reinforces ZF's role as a systems supplier for intelligent mobility and focuses on digitizing mechanical components, driving electro-mobility and helping to reduce traffic accidents and emissions. These three areas closely correlate to current industry trends. "Safety is the heart of autonomous driving. Our technology could soon help benefit all road users," remarks Malgorzata Wiklinska, head of ZF's think tank.
In line with its "SEE – THINK – ACT" theme, ZF firstly provides sensors that can make vehicles and other road users aware of each other's presence. Secondly, it produces the appropriate control units to process the data and thirdly the actuators, such as steering and brakes, which can perform the necessary actions. This intelligent networking of software and mechanics means that vehicles are not only able to detect potentially dangerous situations but are also capable of making split-second decisions. Where necessary, the system can even help to trigger an automatic reaction, for example a vehicle emergency stop when a pedestrian suddenly walks in front of a car.