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RE: PH Origins: Road-scanning suspension

RE: PH Origins: Road-scanning suspension

Monday 18th December 2017

PH Origins: Road-scanning suspension

Magic Body Control the first suspension system to scan the road ahead? Sorry, Mercedes, you were beaten to the punch.



On 15 May 2013, the sixth-generation 'W222' Mercedes-Benz S-Class was unveiled in Hamburg. Befittingly, for a new flagship, it was equipped with a battery of advanced technology - including a semi-autonomous cruise system, airbags integrated into the seat belts and all-LED illumination.

Also highly touted was the 'Road Surface Scan' feature, part of the optional 'Magic Body Control' system, which let the S-Class detect and prime itself for upcoming bumps and surface imperfections.


The system's windscreen-mounted camera would look 15 metres ahead, then relay relevant data to the Magic Body Control - an active hydraulic suspension system. This would then adjust the load and damping at each wheel on the fly, reputedly adapting to the oncoming terrain in a fraction of a second and delivering a 'flying carpet'-style ride.

There were limitations to its capabilities, of course. Visibility needed to be good for it to work properly, and certain road surfaces and conditions could prevent it from functioning as expected.

Regardless, the press release described the S-Class fitted with this system as 'the world's first car to be able to detect bumps on the road ahead'. Unfortunately, for Mercedes, this wasn't the case - and it had missed the chance to claim that headline by some 28 years.


In 1981, Nissan had introduced electronically adjustable shock absorbers that offered three modes, allowing drivers to tailor the way their car handled and rode. With a new Bluebird - and flagship equipment-laden Maxima model - around the corner, however, the company was looking for ways to further improve its existing technology.

Automation was deemed appropriate for flagship derivatives, leading to the work on an electronically adjustable suspension system that would automatically optimise the car's dampers for the conditions.

The result was a new sonar-based hardware package, patented in February 1984, called the 'Supersonic Suspension System'. It used an ultrasonic sonar, mounted in the nose of the car, to 'look' at the road in front of the car. Analysis of the data from the sensor allowed a processing unit to identify the upcoming terrain - for example, if it was smooth or undulating - and adjust the stiffness of the front and rear dampers to the most appropriate setting.

It didn't overlook what the driver was doing at the time, either; the central processing unit also made use of other inputs - including information from the brakes, engine and steering - in order to constantly tailor the suspension to its optimal mode. The range of adjustments was relatively limited, mind, with the control unit simply switching between soft, medium and firm configurations.


Nissan ultimately launched its seventh-generation Bluebird, codenamed U11, in October 1983. The Maxima version was later unveiled in October 1984 and, in range-topping Legrand specification, it was equipped with the Supersonic Suspension System.

The Supersonic option was soon made available in myriad models, including the 1986 Leopard and 1988 Cefiro - which also received speed-sensitive four-wheel steering, along with the sonar-based suspension hardware, in an equipment combination dubbed 'Duet-SS' by Nissan.

In any instance, according to reviews of the system when it was new, it had the desired effect - with it reputedly improving both handling and comfort, particularly on uneven roads. Nissan had even accounted for it potentially packing up, with all the shocks simply defaulting to a medium stiffness if an error occurred.

So, while clearly not as advanced as the Mercedes system - with a shorter range, lower accuracy, fewer suspension adjustments and less processing power - it's fair to say that Nissan's sonar-based suspension system was truly the first to take into account 'the road ahead'.

Lewis Kingston

 

 

Author
Discussion

donkmeister

Original Poster:

770 posts

25 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
After Nissan, but before Mercedes, I'm certain Citroen released a system on tbe C5 that scanned the road ahead for bumps and holes, adjusting the suspension on each wheel to cope.
I can't seem to find anything about it though.

Lewis Kingston

27 posts

2 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
donkmeister said:
After Nissan, but before Mercedes, I'm certain Citroen released a system on tbe C5 that scanned the road ahead for bumps and holes, adjusting the suspension on each wheel to cope.
I can't seem to find anything about it though.
Do shout if you come across something concrete – I'll have a further look around for more details later, too. Always looking to add more to the mental archives!

Loplop

1,627 posts

110 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Lewis Kingston said:
Do shout if you come across something concrete – I'll have a further look around for more details later, too. Always looking to add more to the mental archives!
Whilst not quite as sophisticated, it is suitably geeky!

Toyota TEMS smilehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Electronic_Mo...

I've been doing lots of research into computing in cars for an assignment at Uni so I've come across a few interesting oddities such as these!

If you ever get bored look up the Bendix Electrojector (first electronic fuel injection system) and the Carnegie Mellon University's NavLab.

TooMany2cvs

21,069 posts

51 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
donkmeister said:
After Nissan, but before Mercedes, I'm certain Citroen released a system on tbe C5 that scanned the road ahead for bumps and holes, adjusting the suspension on each wheel to cope.
I can't seem to find anything about it though.
No, everything Citroen hydraulic has been purely reactive, although it has adjusted springing and damping to conditions since the late 80s, and the Xantia Activa had full anti-roll in the mid 90s.

The DS 7, though, has a camera-based system "reading" the road ahead.

Max_Torque

11,861 posts

142 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Hmm, not really. There is a rather important difference in the systems.

The modern Merc system can scan the road far enough ahead, and modify the damping profiles quickly enough to be able to compensate for INDIVIDUAL road surface profiles in real time ie before the car hits the bump it's scanned.

The old Nissan system could just basically say "this road is bumpy" (on average) and put change the damping to suit. That is really not very useful as it's reacting to what has gone and not to what is coming!


What that means is the Merc system can be nice and stiff to control the secondary ride, but soften off an individual wheel to limit the affect of large primary ride event (ie a pot hole).

This is why Merc are correct to make the claim they do for their system!
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Ragsto

14 posts

3 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Who cares about the suspension when you have those seats! That is a fantastic interior!

nedge2k

118 posts

86 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Max_Torque said:
Hmm, not really. There is a rather important difference in the systems.

The modern Merc system can scan the road far enough ahead, and modify the damping profiles quickly enough to be able to compensate for INDIVIDUAL road surface profiles in real time ie before the car hits the bump it's scanned.

The old Nissan system could just basically say "this road is bumpy" (on average) and put change the damping to suit. That is really not very useful as it's reacting to what has gone and not to what is coming!


What that means is the Merc system can be nice and stiff to control the secondary ride, but soften off an individual wheel to limit the affect of large primary ride event (ie a pot hole).

This is why Merc are correct to make the claim they do for their system!
...yes but the Nissan system was THIRTY years earlier. The processing power required for the Merc system wouldn't even have fit into the boot of the Nissan at the time! I'm also willing to wager there's still cars equipped with that system from back then that are still in perfect working order. The Merc in 30 years...

Ved

3,732 posts

100 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Very impressive stuff considering the time period and application. I remember my dad always talking about the Bluebird as a technical marvel and now I can see why.

Mr-B

1,222 posts

119 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Ragsto said:
Who cares about the suspension when you have those seats! That is a fantastic interior!
Oh yes, those seats look wonderfully squishy! They would be perfect in an old people's home.biggrin Actually no, they need to be beige.

Evilex

420 posts

29 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Sorry, officer! I'm not drunk, my autonomous vehicle was dodging potholes!

(It has, however, compiled a list of locations and transmitted then to the local council, secure in the knowledge that they will do nothing whatever about them.)

Zombie

1,090 posts

120 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
That interior is fantastically 80’s, stereo and heater combination almost looks like something from B&O.

And it had a 2.0tubo v6 that was red lined at 7500rpm?!


Aletsch

51 posts

68 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
What a great blast from the past. In 1986 and 87 I used to earn some extra cash driving Nissan's off the cargo ships that brought them into Europe. Best job I have ever had. Drove many of these Bluebirds off the ship, although top trump at the time was the 300zx and occasionally some of the fancy "president" models that did not get sold over here.
15 decks of steel with very limited grip with the remit to empty the boat as fast as possible. Spinning your way down (or up as the case may be) as fast as you dare whilst being chased by your mates. We were told that if you keep the damage rate <2% it was better then train transport and therefore OK.
Biggest mistake you could make was try to exit on the wrong deck .......

csd19

647 posts

42 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Max_Torque said:
The old Nissan system could just basically say "this road is bumpy" (on average) and put change the damping to suit. That is really not very useful as it's reacting to what has gone and not to what is coming!
No, the Nissan system read the road and changed the damping BEFORE the bump had been encountered. Just in the way the Merc system does. It might not have the fancy damping profiles to adjust eleventy-billion times per second, however it did behave in the same manner.

Jag_NE

679 posts

25 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
beautiful interior, looks top notch.

Lewis Kingston

27 posts

2 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Loplop said:
If you ever get bored look up the Bendix Electrojector (first electronic fuel injection system) and the Carnegie Mellon University's NavLab.
Funnily enough, the Electrojector is on the list - but I hadn't considered NavLab. I'll have a gander!

Ragsto said:
Who cares about the suspension when you have those seats! That is a fantastic interior!
Maximum '80's plushness, isn't it?

Ved said:
Very impressive stuff considering the time period and application. I remember my dad always talking about the Bluebird as a technical marvel and now I can see why.
It came as some surprise to me, too. I knew that it had a stout background in performance-oriented hardware (like HICAS and turbocharging) and that it wasn't adverse to piling on the kit, but I didn't realise quite how far the company was pushing things until I spotted an advert dating from '85 for this set-up. Always amazes me just how far some pushed the available tech at the time.

Zombie said:
That interior is fantastically 80’s, stereo and heater combination almost looks like something from B&O.

And it had a 2.0tubo v6 that was red lined at 7500rpm?!
Packing a whopping 168bhp and 159lb ft - according to the internet, at least - but that's not too shabby for the time. Apparently, some iterations of that VG20 turbo engine made peak power at 6800rpm. Nissan states that this example made peak at 6000rpm, though, so I suspect it might have been soft limited to less than illustrated (or that figure's for the bigger VG30 - more digging would be required).

Nissan states that it was the first transverse V6-equipped FWD car in Japan, too.

Aletsch said:
What a great blast from the past. In 1986 and 87 I used to earn some extra cash driving Nissan's off the cargo ships that brought them into Europe. Best job I have ever had. Drove many of these Bluebirds off the ship, although top trump at the time was the 300zx and occasionally some of the fancy "president" models that did not get sold over here.
Haha! Sounds like it was good fun, provided you got the right exit...

CDP

5,349 posts

179 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Ragsto said:
Who cares about the suspension when you have those seats! That is a fantastic interior!
I bet your bum has more travel in them than available to the wheels of the S Class. And as for the colour (color?) scheme...

theholygrail

176 posts

93 months

Monday 18th December 2017
quotequote all
Amazing tech for the time.

Is it wrong that I love that interior?!

singcw

7 posts

51 months

Tuesday 19th December 2017
quotequote all
I have just bought an Infiniti Q45, the first generation with electronic suspension. The suspension in my car is half working due to couple of faulty sensors, but still function some part of it. By pushing the car to some corners, I am already impressed with this half working suspension! From my research, the properly functioned electronic suspension is capable to iron out any rolling less than 0.5g! And I think it can do that! I cornering rather fast with a new set of Continental comfortable type of tyres in original size, it can corner in quicker speed just like my BMW E90, but without the rolling part!!!
The suspension in Q45 is not as advance as the one in the Bluebird, since it doesn't come with sonar and radar, but is already good enough even in nowadays standard!

AER

888 posts

195 months

Tuesday 19th December 2017
quotequote all
csd19 said:
Max_Torque said:
The old Nissan system could just basically say "this road is bumpy" (on average) and put change the damping to suit. That is really not very useful as it's reacting to what has gone and not to what is coming!
No, the Nissan system read the road and changed the damping BEFORE the bump had been encountered. Just in the way the Merc system does. It might not have the fancy damping profiles to adjust eleventy-billion times per second, however it did behave in the same manner.
I think with only one sensor placed where the wheels never go, Max's description is pretty accurate...


csd19

647 posts

42 months

Tuesday 19th December 2017
quotequote all
AER said:
csd19 said:
Max_Torque said:
The old Nissan system could just basically say "this road is bumpy" (on average) and put change the damping to suit. That is really not very useful as it's reacting to what has gone and not to what is coming!
No, the Nissan system read the road and changed the damping BEFORE the bump had been encountered. Just in the way the Merc system does. It might not have the fancy damping profiles to adjust eleventy-billion times per second, however it did behave in the same manner.
I think with only one sensor placed where the wheels never go, Max's description is pretty accurate...

It does still adjust the damping pre-bump though, and not "reacting to what has gone" - that would be more akin to Citroen's hydropneumatics (as mentioned by a previous poster) or even Koni's FSD dampers.