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07 Nov 03. Cambridge Consultants Ltd (CCL) has integrated a video link with its innovative CCL-Softcar anti-collision radar technology, to create a new platform for building next-generation automobile safety aids. In a CCL demonstration vehicle, for example, a video-equipped radar reversing sensor provides accurate and clear collision and safety warnings over a 180s monitoring zone of five meters (16 feet) depth, and is ideal for large commercial and industrial vehicles such as buses, trucks and construction equipment.

The CCL-Softcar radar reversing aid and video combination offers major advantages compared with the simple video link installed in some vehicles. With conventional cab video, it’s difficult to present an undistorted picture, and hard for a driver to determine exactly where and what objects are – especially when contrast is poor. Radar sensing overcomes this drawback, providing highly accurate detection of obstacle distance and trajectory. In this CCL-Softcar implementation, the camera augments the radar by automatically directing the driver’s attention towards the most dangerous obstacle. The feedback provides the driver with both an accurate audio-visual warning from the radar, and an overlaid video image flagging the danger point – which could be the nearest object, the fastest-moving object, or the nearest pedestrian for example, or some prioritised sequence of dangers.

By further processing radar data using an ‘object classification’ algorithm – the subject of current development effort by a number of automobile manufacturers – the system is capable of providing highly intelligent alerts. While the radar can determine which obstacles are closest or threaten the earliest impact for example, the camera system is better able to distinguish a pedestrian from a lamp-post. The system’s ability to determine and track/predict obstacle trajectory adds a further dimension to the anti-collision capabilities.

CCL-Softcar is based on novel low frequency radar technology, which lowers the cost of the components required to build a system compared with alternative approaches. This gives it the potential to make sophisticated anti-collision safety aids an affordable accessory for the mass market, and the new video enhancement also supports this focus on economy. The video system is used to process images of that part of the view containing the most dangerous obstacle, greatly reducing the computing required, and allowing the computer element of the safety system to be implemented using a low-cost digital signal processing chip priced in dollars, rather than hundreds of dollars.

The CCL-Softcar demonstration system has been installed in a Honda Accord Estate, and is currently being demonstrated to European automobile manufacturers.

This new development is a further valuable enhancement of the CCL-Softcar anti-collision radar technology announced by CCL in May 2003. CCL-Softcar is a pulsed radar system working in the 5.8 GHz band, rather than the 24 or 77 GHz bands used in alternative anti-collision radar approaches. The effect of this relatively low frequency is to reduce the cost of the components required to build a system, and avoid the time and cost overhead which precision assembly of higher frequency equipment imposes. Just four radar modules and one electronic control unit (ECU) are required to provide 360s protection for an automobile – further reducing the bill of materials compared with alternative approaches which can require two or more modules to be installed on every side of a vehicle.

Comment: BATTLESPACE saw the CCL-Softcar demonstrated at the CCL Open day on Wednesday. It has a range of 5metres and is vastly superior to the Ultrasound competitor. The system has considerable applications for the Future Truck and FCS programs. The Stewart & Stevenson Future Truck which we will be covering in our next issue h

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