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Ford Engineers Test 'Predictive Logic' To Improve Cruise Control 112

Posted by timothy
from the clippy-is-actually-old-enough-to-drive dept.
cartechboy writes "Sometimes what we think of as 'car tech' is colored by sensational coverage of things like autonomous cars. But real engineers are working behind the scenes every day to make existing auto technologies more efficient. Take cruise control: Today, even adaptive cruise systems just throttle up when the car's speed drops and ease off when speed rises or a car gets too close. Today's cruise-control systems aren't predictive--meaning they don't plan ahead. At all. Now, engineers at Ford are adding predictive algorithms and more sophisticated powertain mapping to reduce the built-in overcompensation that ends up wasting fuel. Ford has mapped each vehicle's powertrain in much greater detail, and their prototype control systems look at grade steepness, load on the engine, and other variables every few seconds to predict what's likely coming up. Will the hill level off soon? Will the driver ask for more gas, or let up on the accelerator? Down the road, connected-vehicle and cloud-based data will build on these predictive developments--as will those autonomous vehicles you hear so much about. Think of this as a building block to the future."
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Ford Engineers Test 'Predictive Logic' To Improve Cruise Control

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... if it means the legions of cars who drive 35 on a 75 MPH highway whenever the road goes up a slight grade because they haven't worked out that they've slowed down and are creating a huge bunched up traffic jam for miles behind them, when there road ahead of them is empty.

    • Re:i'm all for it... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @07:00PM (#45756629)

      Its not the cars who drive that way, its the Drivers. (And to an extent, under powered trucks who decide to occupy all lanes passing each other in precisely those locations where they obstruct everyone).

      Basic Cruise Control from the 60s and 70's could handle that situation. The problem is there are too many people who won't use cruise control, and too many entry level vehicles that don't have cruise control (it cost a couple hundred bucks for after market kits, and less if you buy it included in a new car).

      Modern Adaptive Cruise control will keep pace with a preceding vehicle (up to you set speed), and detect potential rear-end collisions long before the driver might.
      Usually that costs much more because you need optics or radar (25ghz) to detect distance of the car in front. But it saves gas, collisions, and aggravation.
      (I'll never own another car without adaptive cruise control).

      • Re:i'm all for it... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Grey Geezer (2699315) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @07:21PM (#45756745)

        It's even more complicated than that. Cruise control is all too often a safety hazard on the interstate. Safety requires space, the more the better, between vehicles. All to often cruise control is the reason cars remain in close proximity, mile after mile. Sometimes a cruise control cretin will bogart the passing lane simply because his cruise control is oh so slowly allowing his vehicle to pass an only very slightly slower one. Safe driving requires constant adjustment of velocity in order to maximize space between vehicles. Driving safely is space and energy management.

        • by icebike (68054) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @08:22PM (#45757059)

          Cruise control is all too often a safety hazard on the interstate. Safety requires space, the more the better, between vehicles. All to often cruise control is the reason cars remain in close proximity, mile after mile.

          Oddly enough, there are virtually no traffic statistics that back up your claim.
          There is some speculation that cruse control would lull drivers to sleep, but in fact this happens no more with CC than withoug.
          As for slow passing, that's mostly a fallacy, because every cruise control allows driver over-ride, and passing a slower vehicle at one mph difference in
          speed is not some how more dangerous than passing at 5 or 10 mph. The same driver that will allow the CC to take them slowly around another car would pass slowly if managing their speed manually.

          Constant adjustment is part of the problem. People yoyo-ing up and down the highway are the real risk inducers.

          • As for slow passing, that's mostly a fallacy, because every cruise control allows driver over-ride, and passing a slower vehicle at one mph difference in speed is not some how more dangerous than passing at 5 or 10 mph.

            Actually, it probably is a little more dangerous. People in too big a hurry* do get mad about this, and some of those people are mad enough/have poor enough impulse control that they'll take out their anger in unsafe manuevers (starting with tailgating and unreasonably close passing once it is clear, all the way up to actually attempting to run the slow-passer off the road).

            The same driver that will allow the CC to take them slowly around another car would pass slowly if managing their speed manually.

            That's mostly true -- while I imagine some drivers would pass faster if they were already controlling speed, but just don't care enough

            • by fisted (2295862)

              As for slow passing, that's mostly a fallacy, because every cruise control allows driver over-ride, and passing a slower vehicle at one mph difference in speed is not some how more dangerous than passing at 5 or 10 mph.

              Actually, it probably is a little more dangerous. People in too big a hurry* do get mad about this, and some of those people are mad enough/have poor enough impulse control that they'll take out their anger in unsafe manuevers (starting with tailgating and unreasonably close passing once it is clear, all the way up to actually attempting to run the slow-passer off the road).

              Much more dangerous is, by slow overtaking you're prolonging the time spent in the blind spot of the overtaken car, which is why for instance German law forbids overtaking with less than 20 km/h difference in velocity.

              • Much more dangerous is, by slow overtaking you're prolonging the time spent in the blind spot of the overtaken car, which is why for instance German law forbids overtaking with less than 20 km/h difference in velocity.

                There is no such law.

                The wording in the law (article 5 StVO [dejure.org]) translates as "considerably faster". No numbers.

                • by fisted (2295862)
                  Right, (well actually a more fitting translation (IMO) is ``substantially faster'').
                  Nevertheless, 20km/h is what is typically taught in driving schools, and seems to be a good rule of thumb.

                  So..

                  There is such a law, it's just worded in a slightly different but equivalent fashion.

                  FTFY

              • Eh, I've heard that argument, but I'm not convinced it's a very big problem.

                (To be clear, I agree that passing with a decent speed differential is best practice -- I'm just arguing as to whether it's substantially more dangerous to pass at 1 or 2 mph, even though that's already a bad idea for other reasons.)

                First, when you change lanes, you're supposed to check your blind spot by turning your head. (Not everyone does, but quite a portion do.) Second, people don't change lanes all that often, so the odds of

                • by icebike (68054)

                  Furthermore the existence of the law against slow passing applies only on two lane highways, not on four or more lane freeways. So it is totally not germane to the cruise control issue.

                • by crutchy (1949900)

                  when i overtake on highways (single lane each direction) i sure as hell don't want to be on the wrong side of the road for very long, so unless the road is straight for miles and obviously clear i generally stick the boot in and get it over with as quick as possible.

                  problem with fast overtaking is that it's pretty easy in modern cars to get 30-40 km/h over the speed limit (even if you're overtaking someone doing 20 km/hr under) and while most cops are pretty lenient when it comes to overtaking, if you get o

            • by crutchy (1949900)

              the biggest risk i think of using cruise control on a freeway is the desire to keep cruising at the speed limit, which increases frustration levels when you hit a bottleneck (frustration being a big factor in risky driving).

              the risk increases when you have multiple cars which appear to be crusing doing the same thing.

              when cruising on freeways i often find myself in a game of leapfrog with some other cars.

              i can only guess that it may be due to imprecise cruise setting; the car that is cruising slightly faste

          • I hope you are not arguing that a bunch of closely spaced cars, traveling at high speed, often through interchanges with merging traffic, and drivers distracted by cell phones, is just as safe as well spaced cars, driven by engaged, and considerate drivers? If you have never encountered cruise control cretins in your travels, consider yourself lucky!

      • How many cars are sold without cruise control these days? A quick glance suggests that it's only on the very most basic trim level of the very most basic cars that you don't have cruise as a standard item.
        • by icebike (68054)

          You might be surprised. Its usually bundled in with a lot of other more expensive options. Kids thing they don't need it because they are never going to cruise as the jack rabbit from one stoplight to the next/

      • by PSXer (854386)

        Or, you know, you could actually drive your car. I bet you have an automatic transmission, too.

        • by sjames (1099)

          So do you also churn your own butter? Cut out the automatic gain control on your stereo and TV?

          I get that some people just enjoy driving a manual, I don't get the ones who look down their noses at people who prefer an automatic.

          • by PSXer (854386)

            Any more than I get the people who look down their noses at people who don't use cruise control, i'm sure.

      • Basic Cruise Control from the 60s and 70's could handle that situation. The problem is there are too many people who won't use cruise control

        So true.

        I have basic, stupid cruise control on my car and it rarely varies more than 5mph (+/- 2.5mph) on a grade when set at 65. But it seems like any time I drive for more than 30 minutes on an uncongested freeway it is inevitable that I'll run into at least one numbnut who isn't using cruise control and lets their speed vary by 10-15mph. They'll catch up to me, sit in my blind-spot until I put on the brakes and force them to pass. Once they are well ahead, I turn the cruise-control back on at my orig

        • by icebike (68054)

          Nothing is going through their mind. Most of them haven't a clue about what is going on around them, they are probably yakking, and singing along to the radio, etc.

          They recognize two situations, too far, and too close and that's about all. Their speed doesn’t even enter into their mind.

        • by ftobin (48814) *

          I think what is happening is that people can be paced easily. I see it when traffic starts to roll at a traffic light -- people will match the car beside them often.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      One can only hope. But another thing that would be great would be if it was adaptive to traffic in front.
      If the studies regarding traffic jams are correct then adaptive cruise control could be the thing that makes them disappear.
      Even if only a fraction of the drivers uses it a dampening effect on the oscillations human drivers causes would help a great deal.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        One can only hope. But another thing that would be great would be if it was adaptive to traffic in front.
        If the studies regarding traffic jams are correct then adaptive cruise control could be the thing that makes them disappear.
        Even if only a fraction of the drivers uses it a dampening effect on the oscillations human drivers causes would help a great deal.

        If every car uses the same algorithm, some traffic conditions might cause resonance across all cars that makes traffic even worse.

    • by reboot246 (623534)
      I'm all for it if it can keep my vehicle at a steady speed. The cruise control in my 2011 GMC pickup is terrible at keeping a steady speed - down to about 62 going uphill on the interstate and up to about 80 going downhill. I call it "Driver-assisted Cruise Control". It's almost totally useless.

      Note that my daughter's Toyota 4-Runner has excellent cruise control, even driving over the same interstates. Does Japan know something that Detroit doesn't?
  • ... after it has been found, that the cause for a crash of an Embraer 195 in Africa has been linked directly to the captain being alone on the flight deck, putting the engines to idle and descend rapidly... http://www.aeroinside.com/item/3416/lam-e190-over-botswana-namibia-on-nov-29th-2013-captain-intentionally-crashed-aircraft [aeroinside.com]
  • Why model the power train. Why not instead ship cars with a system designed to learn the characteristics of your power train? It needs to be adaptive anyway to deal with variables like vehicle loading, towing, altitude and wind.

    • by scorp1us (235526)

      Because the variability is minimal in a EFI system. You can just code a LUT. This is how your engine works today anyway.

  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @07:28PM (#45756783) Journal
    "Honestly, officer, the car thinks I'm my wife going to a salon appointment, and the cruise control was trying to get me there on time!"

    "The car sped up just as some blonde bimbo passed me in a Corvette convertible. I have no idea why..."
    • The car can identify the unique keys by the embedded chip. Even my sub-compact economy car has that capability. It can definitely tell the difference between the keys, the software allows me to program operation limits based on which key is in the ignition.
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @07:31PM (#45756803) Journal

    Seems like we all use the same roads... if we just log with altitude and accelerometer readings, we can make a 3d model of all the road surfaces, and layer this into the road database. Problem solved.

     

    • by adolf (21054)

      Problem:

      You assume that there is a singular road database, and that it is correct, and that it is somehow able to be automatically updated in such a fashion that deliberate maliciousness is somehow either impossible, very difficult, or simply unlikely, and that there are facilities in place for such updates to "the" road database to be distributed easily.

      These assumptions are are all wrong.

      • Why bring up that point.

        If the road database is not correct, the only result is that some extra fuel is burned because the predections were wrong. En even then i think that not a lot is won this way. (compare the combusion engine efficiency of a Volt and a prius and you can see ford still has a huge gap to fill)

        The driver still is fully responsible.

        The fully automated prototypes still have lot of scanners and cameras to do the 100% automatic driving.

        • by adolf (21054)

          What is this singular form of "road database" to which you refer? (Please be specific: A URL to a .tar.gz would be ideal.)

          Because in my country (not surprisingly, also the home of Ford), such a database simply does not exist.

          (And if "the" road database is incorrect, the only result is that the fancy goddamn cruise control system doesn't work and that millions of dollars of development costs are wasted -- by the consumers who ultimately pay for such development -- under the guise that it ought to work, but

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ford really isn't this far behind. From the results I've seen in the heavy trucking industry, 'predictive logic' isn't all that. Creating a responsive powertrain with a few set conditions will probably lead to a product a customer wants to drive, not something which will make a customer second guess the system.

    I haven't driven an American car in awhile, but I always remember the CC systems to have terrible wind up in the system. This wind up would give the prius a run for the money.

  • by djbckr (673156) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @08:30PM (#45757115)
    After reading this article [slashdot.org] (yes, I actually read the article and the deposition) I think automobile software should be reviewed by anybody that wants to review it. Let's face it, the software may be somewhat sophisticated, but it shouldn't be rocket science. Certain algorithms could even be patented for all I care, but the code quality must be reviewed. For those of you that haven't read the deposition from the link above, the upshot is that the expert witness saw horrible software practices being performed in a vacuum - as it were - he couldn't even take a pen and notepad in the room where he could view the software. He had to exit the room, make notes, then come back in after a security screening. This is the worst kind of software, and people are driving with it every day. Until software that has my life in its hands is peer/public reviewed, I'm going to buy only older cars for as long as I can. I sold my Prius after reading the above article.
    • by djbckr (673156)
      By the way, the deposition isn't where it used to be. Here is one [safetyresearch.net] that still exists (PDF warning).
    • Good luck with that. Transparency culture is barely making its way into medical devices, it's nowhere near automotive/industrial, and military application is a pointedly anti-transparency culture.

      Some customers are demanding process adherence, but even that is a rare thing in basic service providers.

      As an economic culture, we're still a bunch of ostrich with heads buried in the sand, jealously guarding the same damn egg designs that everyone else has.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @09:56PM (#45757467) Journal

    On my recent model F150 there's a very handy feature: "Tow/Haul" mode. It changes the transmission shift behavior so that touching the brakes makes it downshift and STAY downshifted (and doing it again downshifts another step on the many-gear-ratios transmission), while touching the accelerator lets it shift back up. This is GREAT for long downgrades in mountains, even if you're NOT towing.

    But it doesn't interact well with the cruise control. The speed control raises the throttle setting to keep you from going under the setpoint. But when you're over it just goes down to idle and lets your speed runaway. Touch the brakes to enable engine braking and the cruise control disengages. No automatic speed control for YOU on the downgrade. When the grade starts to level out the speed drops, and even before that you're back to watching the speedometer and doing manual adjustments,

    Result: On mountain roads you're constantly disengaging and re-engaging the speed control.

    They should integrate the two: When tow/haul mode is engaged, the speed control should send downshift signals to the transmission to control too-fast as well as too-slow conditions.
    When tow-haul is on the speed control should signal the transmission to downshift when necessary, to keep the speed from running away and requiring the driver to brake. (The speed control's acceleration when too-slow will handle the upshift correctly.)

    You'll still have to touch the brakes or tap-down the speed setting for curves and other locally slow zones. But then you'd just hit "resume" or tap-up the setting. Meanwhile the automation would handle the non-exceptional condition of preventing overspeed and runaway on downgrades.

    • by Wingsy (761354)
      Maybe you should try a Dodge truck. My Charger downshifts without me doing anything if idle throttle results in not enough braking force down a grade. It always holds the speed to +/- 1mph. It also has adaptive cruise - the one option I appreciate the most, times 10. It really shines on a rainy night, when the guy in front hits his brakes enough to light the brake lights but not enough to slow his speed. It doesn't slow down unless he really does slow down, and without it I'd be tapping my brakes whenever
      • by karnal (22275)

        That's not "Adaptive" in the sense that they're talking about here in my opinion. That's just an offshoot of what some companies will call radar cruise, to where the car maintains a set position behind the car in front of you. I like the premise though, I'm sure it works rather well - and on long highway drives, I wish I had it.

        In my personal opinion, I would think an adaptive cruise would work similar to what I do to attempt to get a leg up on milage. I have a car with a pretty healthy v6 in it - and it

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      On my recent model F150 there's a very handy feature: "Tow/Haul" mode.

      Welcome to the 1990s, when that started to show up on vehicles. Our 2000 Astro LS has the same feature. It changes the shift points, that's about it.

      Result: On mountain roads you're constantly disengaging and re-engaging the speed control.

      Sigh. It says right in the owner's manual that the cruise control isn't for that.

  • I just want a cruise control that doesn't go to 100% throttle when I want to resume 70MPH after slowing down.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I just want a cruise control that doesn't go to 100% throttle when I want to resume 70MPH after slowing down.

      A Mercedes from the 1980s has that. Maybe you should look at a better car instead of a newer car.

  • Traffic would be less of a problem if more people learned how to use cruise control. It's an easy way to maintain a constant speed and increase fuel efficiency.
  • I mostly drive American cars but have noticed that Euro cruise control has long been quite smooth. In my second last American car the cruise control was so twitchy that my wife would regularly ask what the hell I was doing. My last American car was still jerky. Typically the event that concerned her was the stupid car not gassing it enough on a hill climb and then stomping on the gas and dropping a gear to compensate for the great loss of speed. My other complaint was that for some stupid reason the cruise
    • In 1988 I knew an engineering student who swore that there were "advanced control algorithms" at work in the Dodge Caravan's cruise control - I told him he'd be lucky if there was anything more than a first order feedback loop: ( setpoint - speed ) * K = delta throttle, with maybe some limit stops.

      As long as $0.89 analog computers could do the job, 1980s auto manufacturers had no inclination to turn anything over to microprocessor control. I think even after most of the engine fell under advanced microproc

  • If they know the current:
    - Previous Orientation of vehicle
    - Current Orientation of vehicle
    - Previous speed
    - Current Speed

    Simple Method =
    Use the previous speed against current speed. Predict what the new thottle level will need to be to reach their target (how cruise control should work)

    But theres some hills =
    They can simply make an additional function to increase/decrease throttle based on a angle prediction using the previous and current orientations.

    This is simple logic, i just dont understand their need

    • by Dare nMc (468959)

      It does mention Ford expects this to do the most on Trucks, and crossovers. Pull a trailer, or load up 5k in additional load, along with more wind resistance would make the most difficult to pre compute.
      Personally since the cruise control has the capability of overriding my throttle pedal, and is the most safety critical software item after ABS, so please don't add any non hardened inputs, like orientations, grade sensors, navigation system data just so someone doesn't have a extra downshift now and then.

  • I remember years ago when you wanted a drivers license you actually had to learn how to drive a car. Now all you have to do is learn how to point it in the direction you want to go.

  • by nospam007 (722110) *

    I'm still waiting for one that sets the cruise-control's speed limit automatically from my GPS-Navigator instead of just beeping when I drive too fast.

    How hard can that be when it's all in the same computer. Why do we still have to do that manually every couple of miles?

  • ...that this story was followed with "can you trust your router" -- my router can't kill me!

  • ...works better than is described by the story blurb.

    Acceleration when resuming or when a vehicle going slower than the setpoint moves or exits my lane is pretty smooth as is deceleration when overtaking a slower vehicle.

    I only have two complaints. I wish there was an audible indicator when driving slower than the setpoint. On long interstate drives I occasionally find myself behind someone driving slower than my setpoint but because the deceleration is so subtle it's easy to not notice.

    The other is icing

  • But real engineers are working behind the scenes every day to make existing auto technologies more efficient. ...
    Think of this as a building block to the future.

    Did Ford marketing write this?

    Real engineers...working behind the behind the scenes every day... creating building blocks of the future.

    That could be my wordy, but non-informative job description.

    Adding, some "Airplane",

    Real engineers bust their buns every day creating building blocks of the future. You tell your old man that.

  • Everytime I hear the cloud knowing anything about my car, or my car using anything in the cloud, I shudder.

  • Cruise control helps with the biggest expense in trucking- fuel. However, such a heavy vehicle behaves very differently in hills, and cruise is a detriment there. As far back as 2000, Freightliner and International have been working on predictive cruise control that can adjust engine speed, gear (in automatics) and such to the load of the truck and the grade it faces. likewise it will select the best gear to descend that hill safely and lock in to it. The last case I saw on it was trying to integrate GPS an

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