Path-Keeping in Automated Trucks: Accuracy and Confidence

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By Car Brand Experts


Among all the functions that self-driving technology provides, we could consider path-keeping as one of the simplest functions available. However, path-keeping is a sophisticated behavior that depends on various elements, sensors, and processes to accomplish secure driving actions. In autonomous technology, precision is crucial, making path-keeping an essential requirement that underlines the secure and effective operation of robotic trucks.

What does path-keeping mean?

Path-keeping is a vital driving feature that guarantees a vehicle remains within its assigned path on the road. Many newer consumer vehicles and commercial semi-trucks have some type of autonomous path-keeping system integrated, although there are several subtleties and distinctions between variations of path-keeping systems, such as:

Path Keep Assist (PKA)

Path Keep Assist is a capability that can be activated or deactivated on most vehicles. It usually operates through a camera, enabling the PKA to “observe” the path lines and adjust your vehicle within the path lines when it starts to drift. However, because it relies on cameras, this feature may face difficulties performing in muddy, snowy, or especially rainy conditions.

Path Keep Assist is sometimes mistaken for Lane Departure Warning, which notifies drivers through tactile feedback, audible alerts, and sometimes indicator lights if they’ve started to veer out of the lane. Unlike other types of path-keeping systems, lane departure warning will not correct the vehicle’s path. Instead, its role is to inform the driver that the vehicle is moving out of the lane.

Path Centering Assist (PCA)

Path centering, also known as autosteer, advances PKA. This feature is typically part of a vehicle’s adaptive cruise control, where a vehicle autonomously performs most highway actions under human supervision. Path centering is an active technology that keeps a vehicle in the center of its path and can generally be turned on and off.

Currently, many Class 8 trucks are equipped with various forms of Path Keep Assist, Path Centering Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Apart from enhancing safety for truck operators and other road users, these features can adjust throttle inputs and gear ratios for more effective driving actions. By utilizing these features, operators can optimize the fuel consumption of their equipment, reducing expenses across the board.

Why is path-keeping significant?

Path-keeping plays a fundamental role in ensuring the safe and effective operation of any vehicle, including our automated trucks. By enabling our robotic trucks to consistently maintain their assigned paths, we’re not only addressing a key skill in highway navigation but confirming that our technology can serve as a secure foundation for a self-driving system.

Path-keeping is crucial due to its impact on safety, but there are several other reasons why we emphasize this behavior as one of the most integral in safety-driving technology.

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Traffic Flow and Predictability

When vehicles stay within their designated paths, it reduces the chances of sudden movements and abrupt lane shifts. When we learn to drive, we understand that being a predictable driver equates to being a safe driver.

Our autonomous technology follows the same principle. To reduce the possibility of traffic incidents and enhance smoother traffic flow, we must ensure that other drivers can anticipate the actions of our self-driving truck at all times. Whether it involves maintaining a consistent, steady pace within one lane or utilizing a turn signal to change lanes, predictability should be the focus of all path-keeping actions.

Effectiveness

By adhering to the designated path, vehicles maximize the utilization of available road space, enabling more effective traffic flow. During peak periods when space is limited, this can decrease delays, prevent congestion, and facilitate vehicles to travel at a consistent speed throughout their journey.

How do autonomous cars and trucks maintain their paths?

Autonomous trucks and autonomous cars preserve their paths through cameras, Global Navigation Satellite Systems, LiDAR (or Light Detection and Ranging sensors), and more. Thanks to the efforts of automated driving engineers, our self-driving semi-trucks’ perception suite can detect path markers, interpret them accurately, and transmit this information to the rest of the system. Subsequently, the autonomous driving system can utilize this information to maintain a set speed and monitor the distance between it and the vehicle ahead.

There is a prevailing misconception that driverless cars and driverless trucks rely solely on path markers to comprehend the path before them. While this was true for very early autonomous cars, our autonomous capabilities have progressed significantly. Today, path markers (and the cameras that “observe” them) are only one element of the solution.

Self-driving vehicles also employ radar, which is at times included in Path Keep Assist systems present in our everyday cars. Radar provides an additional safety aspect to path navigation. By employing radio waves to detect objects like other vehicles and traffic cones, radar contributes to forming a clear picture of the driving environment. Likewise, mapping enables a self-driving vehicle to leverage historical data about the road for navigation in conjunction with the other tools at its disposal. These two tools collaborate with path marker detection to evaluate the environment, calculate the safest possible course of action, and execute that course of action.

Path-Keeping and Robotic Trucks

As advocates of secure and sustainable self-driving methodologies, our autonomous driving system aligns with regulatory and industry standards across all path-keeping behaviors. Besides its safety implications, proper path-keeping enables us to operate predictably to fellow road users, validate our product’s viability, and advocate for a secure self-driving future.

As we progress with our driverless trucking advancements, we will persist in innovating, cooperating, and spearheading the enhancement of our autonomous driving system. Through ongoing exploration, development, and collaboration with our stakeholders and partners, we will further enrich our path-keeping capabilities to meet the evolving demands and expectations of the industry and the public. Together, we are propelling the future of freight.

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