High-end Italian brake manufacturer Brembo announced in October its plan to release Sensify, an AI-enhanced braking system that promises both “driving pleasure and total safety” when it rolls out via an unnamed manufacturer in 2024. Going beyond anti-lock brakes, traction, and stability control, it replaces hydraulic controls with electronic ones for design flexibility and, potentially, more precise control.
Incorporating AI into vehicles isn’t new, as algorithms control playlists, maps, driver assistance, and even “self-driving” to various degrees. AI-based brake systems, however, are enough to raise eyebrows about how exactly they will work or enhance safety.
“They’re only as good as the training data you have”
“As you start to deal with artificial intelligence and neural networks, they’re only as good as the training data you have,” said J. Christian Gerdes, an engineering professor and co-director of the Center of Automotive Research at Stanford University. “If you have a new case that represents something it hasn’t seen before, it’s hard to know in advance what it decides to do.”
Autocar UK reports that Sensify is using a “dedicated app” to program itself based on data and enhance the driving experience. The system supposedly will use predictive algorithms, sensors, and data management tools that give it a “digital brain” capable of controlling each wheel independently.
Gerdes says that modern anti-lock brake systems, first introduced in the 1970s, are a Band-Aid for wheels locking up under heavy braking. “What would make more sense is to have an understanding of what’s going on at each of your wheels. And to then intelligently ask for brake force at different wheels.”
Despite the digital footprint with AI and Sensify, the physical mechanics have more of a presence compared to the software in the Sensify system, according to Brembo chief executive Daniele Schillaci. The exec told Reuters “the mechanic and software contents will soon be equivalent and by the end of the decade software will become predominant in braking systems.”
The company plans to open a technology lab in Silicon Valley by the end of the year to further its digital strategies. Brembo says, “Data collection is leveraged to improve the driver experience and allows the system to be constantly updated,” but how it will handle questions like privacy and security of that collected data is unclear.
One of Sensify’s benefits is adapting to driving styles, adjusting to weather and road conditions, and shorter locking times. Brembo also says its system will be cheaper over the life of a car because it removes brake fluid by adding electromechanical control, has lower maintenance costs, lower disc consumption, and lower or zero drag torque. In an electric or hybrid vehicle, better control of regenerative braking can help reduce the battery size.
What happens when there is a hardware failure in that AI brain? In a demo for Autocar UK, Brembo explained the system has two ECUs (electronic control units) that are connected as a fail-safe but send their commands separately.
The system is set to be released in 2024. Brembo said that it’s designed to work on multiple car types like sedans, racecars, SUVs, and commercial vehicles, but it’s not clear how much it needs to be customized for each type.