The era of autonomous or driverless cars is on the horizon and the first ‘rays’ – prototypes now being tested on public roads – can be seen. There are various levels of autonomous cars, starting with simple functions like cruise control where the car will travel at a set speed without the driver pressing on the accelerator pedal. As the levels become more advanced, important safety functions are also taken over by the computer, eg braking when it is likely to hit an obstacle or human.
Ultimately, the goal is to achieve Level 4 or 5 where the car will be full automated and there will be no need for a ‘driver’ to do anything (in which case it can’t be called ‘driving’ any longer, can it?). The passengers will state their destination and the car will take them there, choosing the best route and stopping at junctions when necessary.
To speed up development of Level 4/5 vehicles, Bosch and Daimler have started planning for a project which will use California as the pilot location for the first test fleet. In the second half of 2019, the two companies will offer customers a shuttle service with automated vehicles on selected routes in a Californian city. Daimler Mobility Services is envisaged as the operator of this test fleet and the app-based mobility service.
The pilot project will demonstrate how mobility services such as car sharing (car2go), ride-hailing (mytaxi) and multi-modal platforms (moovel) can be intelligently connected to shape the future of mobility. In addition, the partners have decided on the US technology company Nvidia as the supplier of the artificial intelligence platform as part of their control unit network.
“Developing automated driving to a level ready for series production is like a decathlon. It’s not enough to be good in one or two areas. Like us, you have to master all disciplines,” said Dr. Stephan Honle, Senior Vice-President Business Unit Automated Driving at Bosch.
Both companies will draw on their automotive expertise accumulated over many decades to bring mature and safe innovations to market. They are guided by a shared philosophy with the decisive factor being to introduce a safe, dependable and mature system.
“Safety has the highest priority and is the constant theme of all aspects and development stages on our way to the start of series production. If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed,” stressed Dr. Michael Hafner, Head of Automated Driving at Daimler AG. “It’s not enough to be good in one or two areas. Like us, you have to master all disciplines. Only then will we succeed in bringing automated driving to the roads and the city safely.”
A decisive factor for fully-automated and driverless driving in an urban environment is the reliable recognition of the vehicle’s surroundings with the aid of various sensors. Analyzing and interpreting the variety of incoming data and translating them into driving commands within a very short time requires enormous computing power – the fully-automated, driverless vehicle will be a mobile super-computer.
For their driving system, Bosch and Daimler thus rely on a control unit network made up of several individual control units. The US technology company Nvidia supplies the platform required for this, which can run the Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms generated for the vehicle’s movement. The network of control units collates the data from all sensors with radar, video, lidar and ultrasound technology (sensor data fusion), evaluates them within milliseconds and plans the movements of the vehicle. All in all, the control unit network has a computing capacity of hundreds of trillion operations per second. That’s as much as several S-Class vehicles together could reach just a few years ago.
The project especially combines the overall vehicle and mobility expertise of one of the world’s leading premium manufacturer with the systems and hardware expertise of one of the world’s largest suppliers. The ensuing synergies’ purpose is to introduce the new technology early and fully validated.