CARIAD, the Volkswagen Group’s software company, and its Swedish subsidiary NIRA Dynamics use swarm data from vehicles to gather information about road conditions. The aim is to continuously optimise driver assistance systems, an important basis for future self-driving functions.
When the road is wet, every driver knows that the best thing to do is to take their foot off the gas and reduce speed. But it is not always easy to judge by eye where a slippery section begins and where icy spots might be hiding. Volkswagen Group vehicles are already collecting large-scale data to better understand road conditions, and CARIAD and its Swedish subsidiary NIRA Dynamics are using this data to implement new safety systems that will form the basis for future self-driving functions.
Audi, Škoda, SEAT, and Volkswagen vehicles use the sensors to estimate the coefficient of friction - which allows calculation of vehicle traction and grip - between the tires and the segment of road they are driving on. Privacy of user data is guaranteed at all times through privacy-by-design.
The task of NIRA Dynamics is to create a digital map base with high-precision information on the condition of the respective road section, using swarm data from vehicles and collected by CARIAD: data transmission can be seamlessly embedded in existing driver assistance systems.
The grip information collected from vehicles is shared so that other vehicles can also benefit by receiving details on the conditions of specific road sections almost in real time. Drivers can be warned via the information display and can adapt their driving in a timely manner. This safety feature has been introduced by Audi as early as 2021, significantly improving the accuracy of local route information through close collaboration between CARIAD, NIRA and HERE.
Since 2021, when the feature was introduced as an improvement of the Local Hazard Information service, the Volkswagen Group's fleet that collects data on road conditions has grown significantly, to around three million vehicles, and continues to expand. NIRA collects the data anonymously and openly - this way, other manufacturers can also use and improve the digital map base.
Road grip information supports not only drivers, but also transport company operators, as is already the case in Sweden and the Netherlands: with this data, road maintenance and clearance during the winter months can be made more efficient.
Toward autonomous driving
The anonymized data on road conditions and grip come from as many users as possible: the swarm includes a large number of vehicles driving in different countries. Information for Europe and the United States is already available, and soon the service will be introduced in the Chinese market as well.
CARIAD and NIRA Dynamics are already working on the next development, with the goal of expanding the functional scope of the maps. Information on road conditions is an important basis for highly automated driving functions, for which the swarm data from vehicles will be further enhanced. The database will soon include information from third-party providers, such as weather portals. In this way, automated vehicles could be able to safely driving on road sections with difficult conditions.
VGI | Responsible OU: VP | Creation date: article date | Class 9.1