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TARC Showcases R&D Achievements in Vehicular Active Safety Systems

Nov 18, 2013 | By Quincy Liang

The Taiwan Automotive Research Consortium (TARC) recently showcased seven active-safety systems developed though industry and government collaboration. The R&D achievements showcase the advances made by Taiwan in developing highly reliable vehicular safety systems. The systems have already been deployed in various pilot projects by domestic vehicle fleets.

TARC developed the systems, which have been deployed in various pilot projects by domestic vehicle fleets, in partnership with eight domestic private automotive-electronics makers and with support from the Industrial Technology Development Program sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA).

Founded in 2005, TARC is a major player in automotive R&D in Taiwan. The Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) under the MOEA has also promoted the establishment of similar organization to integrate resources from the industrial, governmental, academic and research sectors in Taiwan, including the Automotive Research and Testing Center (ARTC), the Mechanical and System Research Laboratories (MSL) and Material and Chemical Research Laboratories (MCL) under the under the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), Metal Industries Research & Development Centre (MIRDC) and Hua-chuang Automobile Information Technical Center Co. Ltd. (HAITEC).

TARC says that vehicular active safety systems are becoming increasingly prevalent in passenger vehicles. Such systems include lane departure warning systems (LDWS), blind spot information systems (BLIS), around view monitors (AVM), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and driver state monitor (DSM) systems. However, there is also an urgent demand for such systems in larger vehicles, such as heavy-duty trucks and coach buses to protect pedestrians and neighboring vehicles. TARC has therefore sought to upgrade different active safety systems for applications on both small and big automobiles to enhance overall traffic safety.

A total of seven R&D active safety systems were developed with subsidies from the MOEA this time, including the AVM / AVM+BLIS, LDWS+front collision warning system (FCWS), LDWS+DSM by ARTC; 24G microwave radar FCWS by CSIST; LDWS+FCWS and AVM by MSL of ITRI; and a BLIS by MIRDC. All of the systems have been installed on 48 vehicles in the fleets of nine domestic companies, including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, trucks and buses. The pilot adopters are public bus operators Capital Bus and Taipei Bus, logistic service providers Kerry TJ Logistics, HTC Logistics, and President Transnet, taxi company Taiwan Taxi, coach operator Ho-Hsin Bus, auto accessory chain-store Koshida Taiwan Automotive (Autobacs) and auto-parts maker Ho Shen Traffic.

Some of the early adopters have signed purchase letters of intent (LOI) for various systems, including Taiwan Taxi (LDWS+FCWS and AVM+BLIS) , Create Electronic (LDWS+FCWS), Autorad Tech Co. , Ltd. (AVM+BLIS), Ho-Hsin Bus and Whetron (LDWS+DSM), and President Transnet and Hsiang Lin (BLIS).

First Bus AVM
A public bus equipped with the AVM system, and another with the BLIS drew media attention during the demonstration. Liao Hsueh-long, assistant vice president of ARTC, points out that the ARTC-developed AVM system is the first such system in the world to be installed on a public bus.

AVM is no longer a new active safety system for the passenger cars, Liao explains, but its application on buses faces many technical challenges because of the much-bigger vehicle sizes, greater image distortions and more complex algorithms. ARTC is also developing an AVM system with both display and detection functions to further enhance bus safety.

Joe Huang, president of ARTC, points out that the real-road operation by company fleets has generated precious data for further fine-tuning the TARC-developed systems. The partnerships between TARC members, technical-transfer makers and potential customers in pilot projects have also shortened the product testing and commercialization time.

With the signing of the four LOIs, Huang adds, several TARC-developed safety systems will be soon be commercialized and adopted by more fleet vehicles in Taiwan. Local companies accessing technology from TARC are also expected to export systems to global customers.

Optimism
Liao Ching-Chiu, vice president of ARTC, is optimistic about the commercialization of TARC-developed active safety systems. He expects such systems to be installed in the vehicles of at least five corporate fleets in Taiwan in 2014.

Liao notes that the European Union (EU) has introduced rules requiring all heavy-duty vehicles to be equipped with LDWS in 2013. Moreover, the EuroNCAP vehicle safety evaluation standard has announced that in 2014, vehicles must be equipped with at least three new active safety systems, including LDWS, advanced emergency braking system (AES) and lane-keeping system (LKS), to qualify for the highest-level safety ranking. The new rules are expected to add momentum to the global adoption of active safety systems in vehicles.

Liu says that ARTC has been devoting resources to the design, development and innovation of advanced active safety systems to spur development of the auto-parts sector in Taiwan.

"ARTC is more than just an institute with advanced laboratories for basic research," Liu explains. "We also have clear goals in carrying out different R&D projects: to protect the intellectual property of the local auto-parts industry and to develop newer and better systems with functions surpassing that of counterparts developed by global tier-1s."

In recent years, ARTC has been working on multifunctional active safety systems that boost vehicle protection at lower production costs. For example, Liu says, an ARTC-developed electric parking brake (EPB) system can be activated within half a second. The center is also trying to integrate the system into a reverse imaging and detection system to deliver comprehensive protection for a reversing car. "When researching a new safety system, ARTC's goal is to make the commercialized products at least 30% cheaper than peer products in the international market. We also insist on adopting key parts and components made by suppliers in Taiwan."

To achieve the highest possible local-content rate, Liu says, ARTC began designing Taiwan's first self-developed IC chip for LDWS in 2012. It also cooperated with local semiconductor maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC), the world's largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, and Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE), a global leading IC packager, to jointly make the system entirely in Taiwan. In 2013, Liu adds, FCW functions were added to the chip, making it even more competitive.

Liu says that ARTC has been trying to solve technical difficulties and challenges in active safety systems, especially with imaging systems.

"Inclined sunlight often results in glazing, which affects the camera lens, and heavy rains can degrade the accuracy of image recognition systems," Liu says. "ARTC has been working on these challenges and hopes to have some initial breakthrough in the near future."

Strengths
ARTC has 405 employees, one-fourth of which are engineers on its R&D team. Liu says that his center has an annual R&D budget (excluding budget for vehicle testing related work) of NT$300 million to NT$400 million (US$10 million to US$13.3 million). In addition to the center's world-class vehicle testing capability, ARTC just passed the CMMI Level 3 certification, the highest level for an R&D center, required by the Big-three automakers in the United States, Liu says.


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