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Daimler, Bosch go driverless

Step up: Artificial intelligence technology from Nvidia will help Daimler test cars make hundreds of trillions of computing operations a second.

Daimler ‘mobile super-computer’ test vehicles set to hit the streets

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Daimler logo11 Jul 2018

DRIVERLESS vehicle technologies will go to the next level when German companies Daimler and Bosch launch a joint fleet of fully autonomous and driverless electric test vehicles next year in California’s Silicon Valley.
 
Using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology from United States tech provider Nvidia, the vehicles are designed to learn on the job, making hundreds of trillions of computing operations per second and generating vehicle driving algorithms from machining-learning methods.
 
The computing power in the test vehicles has been described as a mobile super-computer, collating data from radar, video, lidar and ultrasound sensors in a process called sensor fusion.
 
Bosch says the front-mounted stereo video camera alone generates 100 gigabytes of data a kilometre, with this being processed “as fast as the sensation of touch that needs between 20 and 500 milliseconds to reach the human brain”.
 
The technology is expected to be ramped up for mass production by the beginning of next decade, which mean it could be in production as soon as a year after the pilot program hits the streets.
 
The computing power is so intense that the hardware needs to be hooked up to the cooling system of the car’s battery pack to prevent it overheating.
 
An image provided by the companies shows what appears to be three types of vehicle in an urban setting – a tiny city car that could foreshadow the next Smart EQ ForTwo, a larger Mercedes-Benz EQ sedan and a shuttle bus that is pictured picking up passengers at a subway station.
 
The driverless shuttle test service has been confirmed by Daimler and Bosch for selected routes in the Silicon Valley city of Sunnydale, near San Franciso Bay south of San Francisco, in the second half of 2019.
 
Customers will be able to step aboard the all-electric driverless shuttles at designated stops.
 
But the joint partners have also indicated they will also offer other autonomous services, saying they mean to test car sharing (car2go), ride-hailing (mytaxi) and multi-modal platforms (moovel), including how the three forms of transport can be connected.
 
Daimler’s head of automated driving, Michael Hafner, said the decisive factor was 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,” he said. “If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed.”
 
The pilot vehicles will test the two highest SAE levels of autonomy – Level 4 and 5 – with the latter (completely driverless) apparently being targeted for the shuttle service.
 
Although Daimler and Bosch have both been testing autonomous technologies for several years, the 50-50 joint venture kicked off only in April last year.
 
Daimler and Bosch engineers on the project work side by side in the same offices in Stuttgart and Sunnydale.
 
The two German companies have a long history of joint collaboration on ground-breaking automotive technologies such as ABS and ESC.

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