Multidisciplinary and cross-sector: automated driving in the passing lane

Self-driving vehicles will transform our cities and lead to new business models and lifestyles. But there are a number of barriers to be overcome before fully automated cars arrive on our roads. VIRTUAL VEHICLE is conducting intensive research in this field. The experts in Graz, Austria are working on a variety of projects with national and international partners. They are contributing not only to making automated driving a reality in the coming years, but also to strengthening Austria’s positioning as a leading research nation.

Parking sensors, lane-change assistance, automatic distance alerts: Driver assistance features such as these are already found in vehicles on the market today. They make driving more convenient and offer greater safety. Even more changes are expected in the future, when vehicles will be networked with the outside environment and becoming ever more intelligent computers on wheels.

Automated driving is not just a hot topic in the automotive sector, but is also avidly discussed in society. A number of challenges still need to be overcome, however, before the dream of fully automated driving becomes a reality. At VIRTUAL VEHICLE, several departments are working with national and international partners to make fully automated driving a reality in the coming years.

Concept car as research platform

VIRTUAL VEHICLE is currently working on a unique research platform based on a Ford Mondeo Hybrid equipped with the latest steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire systems, as well as simple driver assistance features. The co

ncept car is being developed in three stages: In the first stage, electronics are given full access to the vehicle, with the goal of operating the accelerator, brakes and steering by Computer alone, creating an “artificial intelligence on wheels”. In the second phase, cutting-edge sensor technology (e.g. lidar, radar, cameras, GPS and car2X systems) are installed to ensure 360° capture of surroundings. High performance multi-core computing platforms for data evaluation and data fusion (e.g. NVIDIA, Infineon Aurix and dSPACE) are also integrated during this phase. The third and final phase is when autonomous driving functions are implemented. Deep learning processes will also be used, to continuously train the vehicle artificial intelligence.

Virtual driving license for automated driver

The researchers in Graz are not only working on the concept car. In a project with AVL, Magna and TU Graz, for example, they are exploring how automated driving functions can be validated and safely evaluated. Due to their complexity, functions can no longer be reliably validated using purely physical component and vehicle testing, so the Austrian researchers are focusing on additional virtual testing methods. You might say the automated driver passes some of their driving tests virtually in the development phase of the project. Starting of course with the safety of the system.

Green driving guaranteed

In another project, dubbed TASTE, the K2 centre is working with AVL, Siemens, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz and AIT on an intelligent and adaptive cruise control that automatically controls speed and distance to ensure the most comfortable and low-consumption driving experience. They are also working on a traffic light assistant to help drivers always “drive green”, where the vehicle draws on data from the surrounding infrastructure.

Actions and effects

VIRTUAL VEHICLE recognises the huge poten-tial offered by automated driving and is already well on the way to furthering it. Topics such as safety-critical driver assistance features, active safety systems, high performance on-board computers, environmental sensor technology and human-machine interface are fully anchored in the research projects. Additional projects, such as TrustVehicle (increased safety and acceptance for automated driving functions) and AutoDrive (maximum reliability of active safety systems and automated driving functions at minimal redundancy and cost) are getting ready to launch.
The research centre is well aware that these tasks require multidisciplinary and cross-sector expertise, and can only be achieved with stronger cooperation. That is why it brings numerous local, national and also international companies into the arena. Once again, VIRTUAL VEHICLE stands out as a powerful hub for the development of cutting-edge technologies. Its research activities and cooperative endeavours form a key pillar for Austria’s positioning as one of Europe’s leading research nations.



Figure 1: The VIRTUAL VEHICLE concept car for automated driving is the first fully steerable and automated research vehicle from Austria. © VIRTUAL VEHICL


Figure 2: The research centre is working on a traffic light assistant to show drivers how to always “drive green”.