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A lot of modern cars come with advanced driver assistance systems,
things like adaptive cruise control that keeps a safe distance from the car in front
or automated emergency braking to avoid collisions
or lane assist, to...
keep you in lane.
Which is great, as long as the driver knows the system's limits.
The worst modern car I've ever driven came with
adaptive cruise control that turned itself off
if you went under 20mph.
So if the car in front slowed down for a traffic jam, so would you,
until you went under 20,
at which point the car just handed control off to you
with a very quiet beep.
And if you weren't expecting that...
This is the Global Vehicle Target
and, as of this year, it is part of the EuroNCAP standard
on how to test the safety of automated driving systems.
But it isn't just a static foam model.
This base here is a robot platform that goes up to 50mph,
which means you can test safely with both vehicles going at highway speed.
Right, my turn in the passenger seat.
I mean, of the real car, not this.
This doesn't have a passenger seat.
- Thatcham Research is a not-for-profit insurance-funded research centre.
In about 2014, it became clear that the next generation of technologies
weren't just going to look for the rear end of the car,
they were going to look at the side of the car
and even the front of the car.
We've got to have a target that actually looks like a three-dimensional car.
The impactable bit, the visual pieces of the car,
are actually foam target blocks which are assembled to look like a car
and covered with a radar material.
Generally, you can put the target, from start,
back together in about 15 to 20 minutes.
And what we've done is we've used test equipment
that actually measures the radar reflectivity of a real vehicle.
So you get radar reflectivity of a wheel.
And even the glass, the back of the vehicle, has a certain radar signature.
So it's about putting radar reflectors
and also radar-absorbent material in the right place.
So the brand-new tests that we're going to introduce in 2020
are what we call turn-across-path,
where your vehicle is moving in front of another vehicle
and we want your vehicle to brake.
We're also developing junction tests
where a vehicle moves across your path laterally
and therefore we need to see the side of the vehicle.
And we're confident that if a vehicle brakes for our target,
it'll brake for a real vehicle in the real world.
- This should stop in time?
- Yes, yeah. - OK.
All right, let's do it.
[alarm chiming]
[braking system rumbling] - Whoa!
First of all, that works.
That's good. - Yep, we have stopped.
- Oh, that made me feel so nervous.
- It's deliberately late and harsh.
- Radars are very good at understanding if something is moving.
They can identify what it is.
However, if you just come across an object and it's stationary,
it's much harder for the radar to identify that that's a vehicle.
What's the difficulty is understanding: has the driver seen it?
And what are the driver intentions?
So if you've got a vehicle that's parked in front of you,
it doesn't want to warn you too early,
because that's gonna annoy the driver and we don't want that,
because if your driver is annoyed,
he'll turn the system off.
One of the problems vehicle manufacturers have is
there are not only differences in the road infrastructure,
but there's actually national characteristics.
People in Germany tend to drive slightly more aggressively.
And, therefore, the issue of false positives,
it's much more of an issue.
Whereas the Swedes will tell that they're much more benign
and, therefore, a vehicle that's just stationary,
warning the driver won't really annoy him too much.
- OK, so what happens if we go slightly faster?
- Well, we'll try it, and it should be, you know...
We'll do 40mph rather than 35.
- All right.
(Oh, I don't like this.)
I really don't like this.
[alarm chiming]
[braking system rumbling] - Ohhh!
[alarm chiming]
Does it slightly brake to warn you?
- Yes.
- You hope, with that little brake, it's enough for the driver to go,
oh, this is... something strange is happening,
- Yeah, yeah. - and do it themselves.
- OK, yeah, that works.
So does the target!
- Yep, yeah.
- Thank you very much to all the team at Thatcham Research.
Pull down the description for more about them and their work.
There is one tyre upright, just there.