Mobility Solutions

Cars that drive themselves Highway pilot technically viable in five years

  • Automated driving requires extremely reliable technology
  • Bosch technology paves the way for artificial intelligence in test vehicles
  • More than 10,000 kilometers of test drives completed on public roads
  • Legal framework must keep pace with technological developments
  • Increasing automation will cut traffic accidents in Germany by up to a third
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  • September 10, 2015
  • Mobility Solutions
  • Press releases
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press release

Frankfurt/Stuttgart, Germany – Drive or be driven? Bosch is just a few years away from premiering a technology that will give drivers the choice between the two. “Thanks to our highway pilots, from 2020 we could see highly automated cars driving themselves on the freeway,” says Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. In highly automated driving, the vehicle temporarily assumes full responsibility for driving tasks. “The car becomes the chauffeur, and the driver the passenger,” Hoheisel says. This improves safety on the roads, but also places great demands on technical reliability. Moreover, it requires fundamental changes to vehicle architecture. “As far as developing the technology goes, Bosch is in a good position,” Hoheisel says. However, it is equally important for governments to establish the necessary legal framework for automated driving. “Legislation must keep pace with what is technically possible,” Hoheisel says.

Bosch test vehicles: artificial intelligence on four wheels
On the German A81 and U.S. I280 freeways, Bosch is demonstrating what is already technically possible. Since the beginning of 2013, engineers have been driving highly automated vehicles on public roads – at first in test vehicles based on the BMW 3 Series Touring and, since mid-2015, in the Tesla Model S. “Our engineers have now completed more than 10,000 kilometers of test drives without a hitch,” Hoheisel says. The vehicles guide themselves through traffic – accelerating, braking, and overtaking as necessary. They also decide for themselves, and depending on the traffic situation, when to activate the turn signal and change lanes. The basis for all this is sensors that provide a detailed picture of the vehicle's surroundings. In addition, Bosch's partner TomTom supplies highly detailed map data. A computer uses all this information to analyze and predict the behavior of other road users, and on that basis makes decisions about the highly automated vehicles' driving strategy. “Bosch technology is making cars smart,” Hoheisel says.

Modifying the test vehicles: 1,400 hours of work and 1,300 meters of cable
Before the test vehicles could start driving themselves, a number of modifications were necessary. In the case of the Tesla, Bosch spent 1,400 hours installing 50 new components, such as a stereo video camera, and laying 1,300 meters of new cable. There is a good reason for all this work. Highly automated vehicles must be capable of operating safely even if a component fails. The only way to achieve such operational reliability is with a design strategy that includes redundancy in safety-critical systems such as braking and steering. For example, the Tesla test vehicles feature both the iBooster electromechanical brake booster and the ESP braking control system. These Bosch components can brake the car independently of each other, without any need for driver intervention. Back-up systems are also available for the power supply and vital ECUs.

At first glance, however, the Bosch test vehicles barely differ from production models. For Hoheisel, it is clear that “the interior is where we will see the biggest difference in comparison to today's production models.” Highly automated driving will change the human-machine interface, and calls for modern concepts for communication between car and driver. The driver must be able to intuitively understand and use the system. With its innovative display instruments, Bosch is already offering promising solutions in this area as well: the TFT instrument cluster featured in the Audi TT, for instance, offers maximum flexibility in processing combined with brilliant clarity. And using head-up displays, Bosch puts information such as speed, navigation prompts, and warnings directly in the driver's field of view. This information is superimposed on the vehicle's surroundings in such a way that the two seem to blend seamlessly at a distance of around two meters ahead of the vehicle.

In-depth understanding of all vehicle systems the key to success
Automated driving impacts the entire car: its powertrain, brakes, steering, display instruments, navigation and sensors, as well as connectivity inside and outside the vehicle. The key to success is an in-depth understanding of all vehicle systems. Few automotive companies worldwide have as much knowledge in this area as Bosch -and the complete acquisition of the steering specialist ZF Lenksysteme GmbH, now known as Robert Bosch Automotive Steering GmbH, at the start of the year has reinforced this further. Driver assistance systems are the backbone of automated driving. Even today, they help drivers change lanes, stay in their lane, and brake or take evasive action when encountering an obstacle. “As we move toward self-driving cars, we will be premiering many new assistance systems,” Hoheisel says. The insights that Bosch gains from these will feed directly into the development of automated driving, giving it a further boost. Bosch has 2,000 engineers worldwide working on driver assistance systems. They support the two teams – one in Abstatt, Germany, and one in Palo Alto in northern California's Silicon Valley – that have been developing automated driving since 2011.

Automated driving is first and foremost about making road traffic safer. Each year, an estimated 1.3 million people around the world are killed in road accidents. In 90 percent of cases, the accident can be attributed to human error. “In critical traffic situations, the right support can save lives,” Hoheisel says. Bosch accident research predicts that increasing automation can lower accident rates even further – by up to a third in Germany alone. This is something that insurers are now beginning to recognize. In the U.K., for example, vehicle owners are granted a more favorable insurance status if their cars are fitted with certain driver assistance systems, such as an emergency braking function for urban driving (AEB city). And automated driving makes road traffic not only safer, but also more efficient. U.S. studies indicate that applying predictive driving strategies when on the freeway can result in fuel savings of up to 39 percent.

Legal requirements: governments and associations need to act
Highly automated driving cannot become a reality unless there are changes to the law. One current legal constraint is the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which dictates that drivers must retain control of their vehicle at all times. Up to now, this has ruled out highly automated driving. Nonetheless, there are signs of impending changes to the regulations that apply both in Germany and in many other countries. One possibility would allow automated driving so long as the driver is able to override or disable it. Discussions are underway on how to revise the regulations to permit this exception. Quite apart from regulatory law, vehicle licensing law presents another hurdle. Regulation R.79 of UNECE, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, only allows automatic intervention in steering up to a limit of 10 kph. Up to now, there have been only half-hearted attempts to change this. However, an informal UNECE working group is now working on the issue. “We have every confidence that governments and associations will make the right move soon,” Hoheisel says. Following that, the only remaining problem is validation: using current methods, a highway pilot has to complete several million kilometers' worth of testing before it can be released for production. Bosch is now working on new approaches that rely more heavily on simulation.

Contact person for press inquiries: Jörn Ebberg, phone: +49 711 811-26223

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Mobility Solutions is the largest Bosch Group business sector. In 2015, its sales came to 41.7 billion euros, or 59 percent of total group sales. This makes the Bosch Group one of the leading automotive suppliers. The Mobility Solutions business sector combines the group’s expertise in three mobility domains – automation, electrification, and connectivity – and offers its customers integrated mobility solutions. Its main areas of activity are injection technology and powertrain peripherals for internal-combustion engines, diverse solutions for powertrain electrification, vehicle safety systems, driver-assistance and automated functions, technology for user-friendly infotainment as well as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, repair-shop concepts, and technology and services for the automotive aftermarket. Bosch is synonymous with important automotive innovations, such as electronic engine management, the ESP anti-skid system, and common-rail diesel technology.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

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PI9016 - September 10, 2015

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