Assistant Professor Dr. Ahmed Mekky and his team of graduate students uncover the limitations of vehicle automatic emergency braking systems to help owners better understand their vehicles.
Rimkus Consulting Group Inc. commissioned the research after Michael Urban contacted Dr. Craig Hoff, dean of the College of Engineering, about the project. Urban, practice leader and professional engineer at Rimkus, is taking online courses at Kettering to earn a master’s degree.
The project required the University to purchase a soft target, a foam vehicle similar in size to a sedan. Hoff said he had already planned to make this purchase for other projects.
Hoff said he chose Mekky to work on the project because of his background in dynamic systems and controls.
“[Mekky] was able to get up to speed quickly and did a great job on the project,” Hoff said.
Urban, a crash reconstruction specialist at Rimkus, said the research findings will help provide more insight into how crashes occur. He said he’s seen a few types of crashes involving automatic emergency brakes. One in which the driver said the accident wasn’t his fault because the car didn’t stop on its own and another in which the car apparently stopped on its own in the middle of traffic without reason.
“If we know how systems work, it will help us know how they fail,” Urban said.
Vehicles on the road today collect data when they are involved in an accident, but the data does not always show whether the vehicle had taken over as it does with an AEB system or whether the driver was at the orders. The results of this research could help change that, and analysts might be able to tell if the driver was paying attention or if it was a caring vehicle, Urban said. Sometimes drivers are attentive but think the vehicle is capable of doing more on its own than it actually can. This is because drivers do not fully understand the characteristics of their vehicles.
With the industry standard for the system set at a limited range of an 8mph speed reduction before impact, Kettering research finds that system performance varies by vehicle.
“Different brands react differently,” Mekky said.
The team began its research in April and will complete it at the end of June. So far, the team has tested a 2022 Ford F-150, 2022 Cadillac Escalade, 2022 Toyota Tundra, 2018 Subaru Outback, and 2022 Tesla X Plaid.
For this phase of the search, the team uses a fixed target. In all cases, when the braking system takes over depends on the speed of the vehicle and the distance to the target.
“Some apply a very hard brake. Others press the brake to raise driver awareness at different levels,” Mekky said.
Graduate student Ronak Jain said the project is important because it will give people an idea of the quality of these systems from various manufacturers.
“I’m surprised that the AEB system of all the cars tested so far is a function of how far and how fast the car is approaching the target,” he said.
Another graduate student, Nihal Nadvi, was surprised that vehicles they thought would perform well weren’t comparing to vehicles they didn’t think would perform well.
“I think this project is of paramount importance as new autonomous systems come along,” Nadvi said. “It is essential that we test vehicles that are already on the road to check whether the vehicle meets the manufacturer’s claims.”
Urban said he hopes to expand those tests at Kettering to include moving targets, more vehicles, different weather conditions and various scenarios, including side impacts. For now, it’s all about understanding the basics of what vehicles can do.