New Robot Facilitates Autonomous Vehicle Testing

The Active Safety Test Robot – ASTERO – realistically replicates pedestrian movements.

The practical suitability of semi- and fully autonomous vehicles is often determined by many test-drive kilometers on public roads. While this method very effectively allows the vehicle to “learn” all real-world situations, the replication of desired situations is not guaranteed and can therefore result in hours of driving with very little new or useful data being gained.
A new robot from MESSRING Active Safety will change the way automakers and suppliers of autonomous assistance systems tune the automated driving systems in vehicles as it allows for a much wider range of pedestrian movements to be replicated than previously possible. Instead of recording many uneventful kilometers, “training” sessions on test tracks will now deliver a much broader spectrum of results in a significantly shorter amount of time.

The new Active Safety Test Robot, or ASTERO, is a robust target designed for the validation of autonomous vehicle sensors and software with a focus on pedestrian emergency brake systems. It mimics the motions of real pedestrians, with the feet touching the ground – unlike most soft targets – and realistically moving joints operated through pneumatic muscles. In addition, it is made from a ruggedized plastic without any metal and can be dressed in a material that shows the same degree of radar reflectivity as human skin. The ASTERO can be programmed with the real motion data of a motion detection system and enables accurate validation of sensor systems and associated pedestrian detection software.

“Our pedestrian target is intended to develop and optimize algorithms that predict the future movements of a real human being,” said Dierk Arp, Executive Director of MESSRING GmbH. “ASTERO can replicate all movements, such as a variation of step frequency and length, like a real person preparing to sprint.”

One major advantage of MESSRING’s new robot is that it is mounted from above, in contrast to floor-based systems. This is a result of MESSRING’s 6D Target Mover, which suspends the ASTERO from an overhead rod and allows it to move in three directions and rotate around three axes. This setup allows testing to be conducted even on uneven surfaces such as cobblestones, tram rails, or manhole covers, where vibrations and shocks can affect the sensors. The 6D Target Mover also features the invisibility of all actuators and support structures for the vehicle sensors, which reduces system confusion.

MESSRING´s 6D Target Mover allows a very high test-count: for once the ASTERO is lifted out of the way it is immediately ready for the next test run. It can gain a maximum speed of up to 10 m/s – equivalent to 36 km/h and is ideal for testing other targets like bicycles, and can replicate their specific movements such as tilting towards the inside of a curve.
With both products, MESSRING offers a comprehensive set of equipment to efficiently and accurately develop automated driving functions.