Audi uses swarm data to warn drivers faster about slippery roads

By CARSIFU | 9 March 2021

INGOLSTADT: Audi is taking another step in making its cars safer by using high-precision swarm data for the first time to improve its car-to-X service “Local Hazard Information” (LHI).

The new version uses a car-to-cloud application that is based on a novel procedure for estimating the coefficient of friction on the basis of the wheel slip. This technology can detect the tiniest changes in road surface adhesion, upload data to the cloud for processing, and warn upcoming drivers of road ice or other slippery conditions in near real time.

Since 2017, cars made by Audi have been able to warn each other about accidents, broken down vehicles, traffic jams, road ice, or limited visibility, a communication technology known as ‘car to X’.

It analyses various data for Local Hazard Information, including activation of Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC), rain and light sensors, windshield wipers, headlights, emergency calls, and airbag triggers.

Audi is now taking the next step by improving the service with high-precision swarm data to make the warning even faster and more precise. It is the first car manufacturer to use a patented solution from Swedish company NIRA Dynamics AB for this purpose. The two companies adapted this solution as a basis to develop the enhanced hazard alerts together with the Car.Software organization and HERE Technologies.

Within the car, the system can estimate the coefficient of friction between the tyres and the road surface based on wheel slip. To calculate this, it uses chassis signals, such as wheel speed and acceleration values.

It is already active in normal driving situations and not only during extreme situation when chassis control systems intervene. The sensor data is anonymised, both in the car itself and when transmitted to the cloud hosted by NIRA Dynamics AB.

Aggregated data from many vehicles are then combined with metadata, such as current and historical weather information, and then transmitted by NIRA cloud to service provider HERE Technologies. When integrated with HERE location platform, the combined data intelligence represents the road network as a precise three-dimensional model.

HERE servers send the warning information to those cars that are in or heading towards areas with poor conditions. The driver sees a warning in the Audi virtual cockpit or on the optional head-up display and can act accordingly.

The greater the number of vehicles that deliver the data, the better the system can learn, analyze, and create maps, and thereby inform or warn the drivers depending on the situation.

This is the basic principle of swarm data and swarm intelligence – an area in which Audi has acquired extensive knowledge over the past years.

In 2021, more than 1.7 million vehicles from the Volkswagen Group in Europe will contribute data for this improved hazard information service, and this will increase to more than 3 million in 2022, creating a significant competitive advantage. The service is available in new models from Audi, Volkswagen, SEAT, Škoda, Porsche, Bentley, and Lamborghini.