Highly automated driving on highways is becoming a reality. Continental started testing systems like this on public roads in 2012 in Nevada, the US. The Cruising Chauffeur function gives vehicles the ability to take over the driving task on highways in accordance with the national traffic regulations. Cruising Chauffeur is Automated driving for highway/freeway environments excluding entry ramps and exits, including handling of traffic jams and stop-and-go traffic.

This function will be part of the Cruising Chauffeur when it is ready for production in 2020. It not only gives the driver a break, but also ensures safety if the driver is unable to take control of the wheel. Part of the division of tasks between the driver and the vehicle is that the driver takes over driving again at the end of the stretch of the highway. This handover is initiated by a specially developed human machine interface that is also being tested in the vehicles. And even if the driver fails to respond when prompted to take over – for health reasons, for example – the vehicle is able to stop safely automatically. This is done using the so called minimum risk maneuver, in which the vehicle identifies where there is space to stop safely and automatically heads for this place.

“The Cruising Chauffeur brings a twofold benefit when it comes to safety. Firstly, automation avoids human error in regular operation while also offering a comfortable ride. Secondly, the Cruising Chauffeur includes an additional fallback mode that conventional vehicles do not have. If the driver is no longer able to take control of the wheel again, for whatever reason, then the Cruising Chauffeur nonetheless brings the car to a stop safely,” said Ralph Lauxmann, Head of Systems and Technology in Continental’s Chassis and Safety division.

When the Cruising Chauffeur function is activated, the data from vehicle surroundings sensors such as cameras, radar and LiDAR are analysed in a central control unit known as the Assisted and Automated Driving Control Unit (ADCU). The Cruising Chauffeur’s algorithms use this to develop a 360-degree model of the vehicle’s surroundings. Combined with a high-resolution map, this includes all moving and static objects as well as the course of the road and the lanes. The vehicle’s own position in this model is determined precisely on a continuous basis. On this basis, the algorithms can identify areas that can be used safely by the vehicle in line with the traffic regulations and can head towards these areas as part of the task of driving.