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See-and-React: GV80’s Electronically Controlled Suspension

2020-01-28

Electronically controlled suspension with road preview, a novel suspension technology developed for Genesis line’s first SUV GV80, provides excellent comfortability fitting the vehicle’s premium SUV status.

Even the most comfortable cars inevitably become less comfortable on ill-maintained roads. But what if the suspension notices the road conditions ahead and adjusts to offset the incoming shock? That is precisely the function of GV80’s electronically controlled suspension: it previews the road and reacts to any contingency in order to optimize passenger comfortability.

The new electronic suspension technology was developed to preserve comfortability against road contingencies like speed bumps and potholes. The forward-facing camera intakes the road information, which, in conjunction with the navigation’s map data, helps determine the adjustments necessary to the suspension’s damping force; the adjustment then results in a more stable car movement through the obstacles.

The realization of this technology, however, requires simultaneous intake and processing of a variety of information to swiftly adjust the suspension. Applying such a high-level technology to mass-produced cars is such a challenging task that only a few manufacturers have attempted it. But once executed, the technology undoubtedly improves comfortability, as can be felt on GV80. We discussed GV80’s premium comfort and the technology behind it with the Researchers who participated in its development.

Part Leader Jung InYong says the camera was a reasonable choice for information intake in many respects.

Q. The electronically controlled suspension with road preview, we hear, is without precedent in Korea. We’re interested in the story behind the development.

Part Leader Jung InYong We started developing this technology in 2016. The first step was selecting the device for road surface recognition. We thought about using radars, but the equipment was so cost-prohibitive that the development stopped well short of mass production. Cameras turned out to be a more realistic alternative, and we started the development by reviewing the relevant technology out there, including cameras applied to other premium lines from competing brands.

Researchers have been developing a technology that optimizes the damping force by perceiving the road condition with a forward-facing camera.

After that, we thought about various roles the camera could serve for any given purpose, and that led to two ideas. Some speed bumps are so tall that passing them without drastic speed reduction not only causes massive discomfort but also unnecessarily stresses the car body. What if we could recognize this tall speed bump ahead and optimize the suspension to reduce the impact? Dealing with potholes was another similar idea. Potholes are, of course, even worse than speed bumps in the sense that the shock is very much unexpected. Recognizing potholes ahead and optimizing the suspension, again, can deliver a higher comfortability for the drivers.

Senior Researcher Kim HyungJin says the technology minimizes the cost increase and yet delivers an optimized performance

Q. How does GV80’s electronically controlled suspension compare to similar techs from other manufacturers?

Senior Researcher Kim HyungJin GV80’s electronically controlled suspension with road preview, unlike the competitor models’ similar tech, uses a monocular lens camera rather than a stereo lens camera. But despite that, collaboration with the company’s Autonomous Driving Development Division and our competent partner companies allowed the camera to have a level of recognition on par with that of stereo lens cameras. Cameras from our competitors often malfunction or have significantly reduced perception at night or during precipitation. But GV80’s road preview system offsets that limitation a bit by using the information from the built-in navigation tailored

Importantly, GV80’s electronically controlled suspension requires no additional hardware. The existing suspension system only had the software added for road info intake and suspension control. This resulted in a minimal increase in costs but a significant increase in performance.

The road preview function works well at speeds up to 130 km/h.

Q. What is the maximum speed at which the technology functions well?

Kim HyungJin The forward-facing camera, which essentially serves as the seeing-eye of the technology, can only function when there is movement in the vehicle. The GV80’s camera perceives the road well at speeds as low as 10 km/h and as high as 130 km/h. But naturally, you wouldn’t want to run through a speed bump at 130 km/h, so we didn’t mind the bit of a difference in the max speed for road perception and the max speed for suspension control.

Q. In recognizing speed bumps, how might the technology deal with a marginal location error in the GPS technology?

Jung InYong the speed-bump location info from the navigation is, indeed, used to supplement the info gathered by the forward-facing camera. As your question suggests, there obviously can be intermittent errors in the real-time GPS info or in its determination of the vehicle location. If the system itself judges that there is an error in the GPS, it will automatically place limits on the usage of the navigation info, and the suspension will essentially turn off for a time to become an ordinary electronically controlled suspension.

The electronically controlled suspension on GV80 allows for subtle and rapid vehicle maneuvers.

Q. What advantages lie in having the suspension be electronically controlled?

Senior Researcher Kim WooKyun GV80’s suspension controls the damping force by continuously adjusting the resistance of the solenoid valve at every one-thousandth of a second. The main purposes of using an electronically controlled suspension are to assure ride comfort at a variety of surfaces and to maintain and adjust the car body posture. But I suppose there is a bit of a difference between our electronically controlled suspension and the competitors’. Some of our competitors’ suspensions have two solenoid valves, one each for compressing and tensioning. But GV80’s damper makes a single solenoid valve control both compressing and tensioning, which of course results in less weight and easier repairs.

Researcher Choi JongHoon says the forward-facing camera is capable of intaking such specific information as speed bump height and length.

Q. Can the camera distinguish between various speed bump types? And would the suspension work even when passing the speed bump with only one side of wheels?

Researcher Choi JongHoon Yes, the camera is capable of perceiving not only the distance to the speed bump but all the little details like speed bump height and length. That data is input into the calculation featuring the car’s current speed and direction, which separately predicts the ideal maneuver of all four wheels. So even if we were to suppose a situation where the driver uses only one side of wheels to pass the bump, the system will control all four suspensions separately and optimize comfortability.

Q. Wouldn’t the use of an optical camera result in reduced perception during rain?

Senior Researcher Kim HyungJin The short answer is yes: the forward-facing camera is an optical device, which means that at nighttime or low-light conditions like rain, the camera’s perception won’t be as good. Likewise, in conditions where the distance to the vehicle ahead is too short to limit the forward view, the camera’s ability to intake information will be limited. But in such cases, we designed the system such that the information from the navigation and various other sensors will be comprehensively considered to maintain the electronically controlled suspension up-and-running.

Researcher Kim ByungJoo says that the high-performance microcomputer onboard the system makes 100 calculations per second to control the suspension.

Q. After the camera scans the road surface, which device receives the information and controls the suspension in accordance?

Researcher Kim ByungJoo We are using a separate high-performance ECU (Electronic Control Unit) whose lone function is to control the suspension. Using a high-performance microcomputer, the device receives the road surface info from the forward-facing camera and various other signals from the car’s many sensors, which are then computed at a rate of 100 calculations per second to output an optimized control order. The order is then followed by the electronically controlled suspension, which adjusts the damping force once every one-thousandth of a second.

Q. Can the working mechanism of the electronically controlled suspension be adapted for use in other technology as well?

Senior Researcher Kim WooKyun Indeed it can, and some adaptations have already been completed. Beyond just dealing with the speed bumps and potholes, some of our more advanced tech in development recognizes any irregular road surface with large enough height differential. The so-called ‘wave surface’ in a model driving test station, which essentially is a continuous bumpy road, is one example where this advanced tech can come in handy. Another function we’ve developed is for reducing car body rolls during cornering by similarly utilizing the road surface information ahead. But given the design and function concepts of the GV80, we didn’t think those functions were particularly appropriate for the model and left them out.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the technology, active collaboration from various departments was essential to its development.

Q. This was an aggressive attempt at new technology on Hyundai’s part—so it must have come with difficulties.

Kim HyungJin Gathering data was difficult. In order to complete the electronically controlled suspension with road preview, we needed to get data not just from the existing control mechanism on the suspension but also from other devices—like the forward-facing camera and the navigation. Since no department had expertise on all the devices simultaneously, we had to go through some really intimate collaboration.

The biggest challenge came from developing and applying the road surface recognition technology on the forward-facing camera, which was the company’s first attempt at doing so. The initial development was full of trial and error and required continuous testing and feedback from not just the various departments but also the company’s outside partners. Applying the navigation’s surface info onto the suspension’s control mechanism was also the company’s first attempt, so needless to say, many tests were conducted in all sorts of road conditions to ensure that the function runs well.

And in developing this new concept into a working system, we had limited resources. Much discussion went about in ensuring that our system stays cost-efficient, and our prototypes underwent much fine-tuning as a result. But active collaboration from the folks at the Performance Development Department was tremendously helpful in overcoming these limitations. Last but not least, the help from the Vehicle Design Department in setting the performance thresholds and diagnosing problems for the system controller was tremendous as well.

The Researchers behind the GV80’s electronically controlled suspension with road preview.

A long-awaited premium SUV from the Genesis line, GV80 boasts cutting-edge automobile technology across all facets of automobile performance. But the electronically controlled suspension with road preview, an interdisciplinary technology that straddles chassis control, suspension system, autonomous driving, and infotainment system, stands as particularly noteworthy among all the perks of this fine vehicle. Indeed, it is sure to give the riders a degree of comfort commensurate with the level of expectation placed on a premium SUV.