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When Cars Start to Feel the Road

road image (select to view enlarged photo)

LINKOPING, SWEDEN -- August 28, 2014: NIRA Dynamics AB has now developed algorithms that can estimate the friction value between the road and the tires. Experienced drivers perceive the road with nearly all senses: they see, feel and even hear the road. They use all this information to estimate the grip of the road and, based on their judgement, adapt their driving speed to the conditions.

But what if every car could have such an experienced co-driver to help do this difficult job?

Driving at excessive speed or misjudging the road and traffic conditions are still the most common causes of traffic accidents. Current inbuilt assistance systems can recognize road signs and help the driver stick to speed limits. Most drivers are also familiar with the ice warning displayed on the dashboard when the temperature is approaching freezing point. These functions are steps in the right direction, but with the new algorithms by NIRA, cars can take a large step further and get even smarter.

A typical example of where NIRA’s algorithms can be used is on a long oily patch on a curvy road. This might be hardly noticeable for car drivers, but is a potential death trap for motorcyclists even at low speeds. If the road friction estimation calculated with NIRA’s algorithms is communicated directly to the car or via the infrastructure , approaching traffic could receive a warning before it is too late.

Looking even further into the future, real autonomous driving will hardly be imaginable without road friction estimation, as the smart co-driver will fully take over. It won’t be enough for new cars to recognise other vehicles, pedestrians and obstacles, as demanding as these features alone may be. The car will also need to be able to monitor the road condition and make the right decisions.

NIRA is now looking for automotive applications and partners to bring the new algorithms out onto the road.