Autonomous driving brings major changes to end-of-line technology
Püttlingen, September 2017 – A scenario within reach: the vehicle drives autonomously into the test stand, the numerous installed sensors are tested and automatically aligned according to the manufacturer's instructions. The car then drives to the next end-of-line station. In the following interview, Martin Wagner, Product Manager Autonomous Driving at Dürr Assembly Products, talks about the challenges autonomous driving poses for testing technology, and when these will be overcome.
As we move toward autonomous driving, sensor technology is becoming increasingly diverse. Where do you see the challenges for end-of-line testing?
In the future, there will be more different sensors installed in vehicles. These systems require a high level of compatibility, as more and more information and data from different sensors are consolidated and evaluated in real time to ensure the automated or autonomous control of the vehicle. The rising demands on these systems also increase the requirements for calibration equipment and test systems overall. We also expect a considerable change in measuring tasks. This means that – in addition to the static calibration of sensors performed today – there will also be functional tests carried out on the systems. Furthermore, there will be a need for increased documentation of measuring and setting processes to be able to verify the correct settings at a later date.
How will this change the structure of a test stand, for example?
What we need is a scalable end-of-line concept, which is flexible and expandable. The future car will pass through test stands fully autonomously. Tests will be carried out without any operators, and settings will be performed automatically.
Do you think this will require completely new test systems, or is the technology used today flexible enough to be expanded?
We are currently working on both new test stand concepts and expansion and replacement modules to meet the upcoming requirements for measuring and setting tasks. Whether new test stands are needed or existing test stands can be upgraded will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The crucial factors here are the exact technical requirements and the customer's installed base of test stands. One thing is certain: our customers will have to adapt their end-of-line systems to meet the new requirements.
What timescales would be realistic in your view? When will this scalable concept be used in production?
We expect highly automated driving to be introduced from 2020, whereby the system monitors its own features and hands over to the driver once its limits are reached. From 2025, we will see fully automated driving on our roads, with the system performing all tasks itself. To produce these vehicles, new tests stands will have to be available with a certain amount of lead time. That's why we are already busy developing systems we want to offer our customers in the coming years.
To what extent are you cooperating with OEMs and their suppliers in developing these test processes?
We regularly talk to OEMs about their requirements for test processes. We also collaborate with universities and suppliers of driver assistance systems when developing new test stand concepts. This enables us to refine our technology to ensure it can also meet future challenges.
Will vehicles test themselves in the foreseeable future? What is your view on this?
This is an interesting aspect and one that has already become a reality in some areas. Modern vehicles are able to learn and adjust themselves independently during use. This ensures functional reliability in various environmental conditions and over the entire lifetime of the vehicle. However, this is only possible if the vehicle and/or its individual components are perfectly adjusted to each other during the assembly process and have had their functionality tested. The greater the functional and safety-related demands on the vehicle, the more stringent the test system requirements.