GB Patent Number: GB2488238
Granted to: Jaguar Land Rover Limited
One of the consequences of living in an automated society is that while most of us were living life in the slow lane on Christmas Day, the publication servers of the UK Intellectual Property Office were doing their usual thing. Patents were granted in the UK on 25th December just like on any other Wednesday of the year.
One of these patents, granted for Jaguar Land Rover, very appropriately dealt with safer driving. UK patent no. 2488238 describes a system and method which allows a first vehicle to monitor traffic nearby and apply the brakes if a dangerous situation is detected.
While it is relatively easy for a vehicle to detect potential obstacles, a certain amount of intelligence is required to ensure that brakes are only applied when there is a high level of certainty of a present danger. In other words, you don't want your car to slam on the brakes when the onboard computer overreacts to an otherwise banal situation.
In order to distinguish between a damp squib and a potential disaster, the invention applies subtle algorithms to provide a reliable emergency response. By using radar or ultrasonic transmitters and receivers, the system first identifies target objects which may represent a collision threat to the vehicle. It can then calculate the distance to each target object.
In order for the target objects to be considered genuine collision threats, they must be within a certain range of the vehicle and moving in the same direction. The first group of objects to be eliminated are those which are moving towards the vehicle, i.e. at a greater speed than the velocity at which the vehicle is moving. Next to be removed are all of the stationary objects, such as street furniture. The system only considers objects as potential threats if the rate of change in their distance to the vehicle is less than the actual speed of the vehicle.
Once all potential threats have been determined, the system decides which particular object constitutes the highest collision threat. The object is then designated as the target of interest. The behaviour of the object is then monitored, for example by measuring the length of time that it maintains this exclusive status and its distance and relative speed.
Based on this behavioural data, if the system considers that the target is a potential threat to the vehicle then it will initially pre-arm the braking system. This is performed by increasing the pressure in the brake fluid to cause the pads of each brake to move into contact with the corresponding disc, but without impeding the rotation of the disc. In this way if the system subsequently qualifies the target as being a genuine danger, then the vehicle's stopping distance will be significantly shortened. This is because a further increase in the brake fluid pressure will lead to immediate deceleration of the vehicle.
In the spirit of the season during which this patent was granted, such improved vehicle safety systems should provide us all with more relaxed and safer journeys.
Michael Jaeger is a patent attorney at leading UK patent and trade mark attorneys, Withers & Rogers LLP.
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