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Bosch paves the way for autonomous future

Driv3r: Bosch will conduct Level 4 autonomous vehicle trials in partnership with Daimler in late 2019 that will see testers able to summon self-driving vehicles from their smartphone.

Australian and US road trials to iron-out self-driving technology from Bosch

11 Jun 2019

LEADING global automotive supplier Robert Bosch GmbH is moving quickly to the next level of advanced autonomous driving systems – and will use Australian roads to help develop its cutting-edge technology.
 
In an exclusive interview with GoAuto, Bosch Australia regional president of chassis systems control Chris Woods said trials will take place later this year to study and validate Level 4 autonomous systems, which will enable hands-free transportation in certain areas.
 
“We’re developing the latest technologies, state-of-the-art technology level, to advanced driving systems – things like highway assist, which will be coming out in the short term, and more advanced functions like Level 3 highway pilot, automatic driving systems, and Level 4 urban taxi systems that will also come out,” he said.
 
“The trial will actually (take place) in the second half of this year in San Jose for a Level 4 urban taxi system that we’re developing with Daimler.
 
“They’ll be like an Uber-style service where you get on your mobile phone, you call your automated taxi and it’ll come and pick you up.”
 
Currently, the highest form of regulated vehicle automation tops out at Level 3, which enables self-driving in certain conditions such as speeds below 60km/h, but still requires drivers to stay attentive.
 
Bosch’s tie-up with Daimler will also explore fully self-driving Level 5 systems, with the aim of developing algorithms and software for the integration of autonomous technology into consumer-ready vehicles.
 
However, as with current advanced driver assistance systems such as traffic-sign recognition, Mr Woods revealed that a certain level of localisation will need to occur before the autonomous technology can be rolled out to other markets, such as Australia.
 
To this end, the Victorian government awarded Bosch Australia $2.3 million from the $9 million Connected and Automated Vehicle Trial Grants Program in January, which will allow the automotive components giant to test its latest self-driving technology in Australian conditions.
 
This is in addition to a $1.2 million grant the state government also awarded in 2016 – via the Victorian Transport Accident Commission – for Bosch’s local autonomous car project, which uses the Tesla Model S as the basis for what is billed as the most advanced autonomous vehicle development program in Australia.
 
“We were awarded a grant by the Victorian government earlier this year, we’ll be commencing an automated vehicle trial and that is essentially doing a lot of pre-development testing on the Victorian infrastructure to make sure that that is considered in the development of these vehicles,” he said.
 
“Specifically, that was to test in rural roads. We’re actually going through the selection process now, exactly where those rural roads will be, that’s not been announced yet.”
 
However, Mr Woods is conservative about when self-driving technologies will reach critical mass, predicting it will be “three or four years’ time” before Level 3 systems – as seen on the new Audi A8 and confirmed for the next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class due in 2020 – will become commonplace.
 
The hurdles, Mr Woods explained, in bringing more advanced self-driving systems to market are numerous, including data processing, management and security.
 
“The data requirements are enormous,” he said.
 
“The vehicle that we’re operating at the moment generates a gigabyte of data every three seconds … so when we’re trying to share data with our development colleagues globally, we find it’s actually easier to physically ship the hard drives with the data on it than to send it over the internet. It’s faster.”
 
However, a key aspect is filtering that data to what is essential for automation, according to Mr Woods, without compromising road safety.
 
“The key thing is the technology itself is easy to set up for a demonstration, which looks very impressive and looks like the technology is incredibly capable – which it is for that specific demonstration,” he said.
 
“But to scale that so the technology can work all over the world, any time in all conditions is the real challenge.
 
“Making sure the system’s working in fog and at night-time and rain and hail, and also all the varying conditions we can’t test very easily in controlled environments.
 
“The complexity is then in scaling that and making sure we have all the, what we call, the ‘corner use’ cases covered.
 
“You know, 90 per cent of the use cases cover the day-to-day driving, but it’s the surprise activities, when things happen that aren’t normal, that really the car needs to be able to respond to those in the right way all the time.”
 
As such, Mr Woods expects fully autonomous vehicles to initially be segregated from traditionally operated cars to reduce the variables and unknowns until all kinks can be ironed out.
 
Mr Woods also described the programming of the systems to be “conservative” and that automation should be designed in such a way where the vehicle will never be led into a situation that could result in an accident.
 
Another major obstacle in mass-market acceptance will be regulation and policy, although Mr Woods said Bosch is actively involved in trying to shape protocol.
 
“In some countries, automated driving is still illegal, in Europe for example, and the law will catch up,” he said.
 
“Here, the government’s been really helpful in providing a permit scheme that allows us to operate our vehicles here in Victoria, but that comes with safety procedures that we’ve got to have in place.
 
“We’re working with the NTC as well, the National Transport Commission, and they are trying to put together a framework for legislation and they come to companies like Bosch and engage the industry to see what that should look like.
 
“It’ll be a partnership ultimately that brings those regulations.”

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