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City traffic still a challenge for auto pilot

Set and forget: Bosch is working on cars that can drive themselves, even in city traffic.

Bosch says upcoming ‘traffic jam assistant’ will pave way for autonomous cars

29 Jan 2013

INNER-CITY driving in dense and unpredictable traffic remains one of the few hurdles to self-driving cars, according to leading vehicle technology company Bosch.

The German company – the world’s largest supplier of car safety systems such as ABS and lane-departure warning devices – says it can already supply all the components for so-called autonomous vehicles that can steer, brake, accelerate and park automatically.

It says development work on self-driving cars is already well underway, but it stopped short of saying when it thought such systems might be available in showrooms.

Bosch chassis systems control division president Gerhard Steiger said fully autonomous driving would come one step at a time.

“At first, driving on highways with an ever greater degree of automation and at ever higher speeds will be possible, until the highway pilot can take over the entire trip,” he said.

“Two major challenges remain: first, inner-city driving, since automated vehicle functions have to deal with dense traffic involving a large number of road users traveling in every direction and second, developing a concept to ensure that the system’s functions operate reliably in all types of driving situation.”

Among the Bosch technologies already employed on today’s cars are a long-range radar sensor that can detect objects at up to 250 metres, and a stereo video camera that can detect objects in 3D, calculating distance and the direction of movement.

These technologies contribute to functions such as adaptive cruise control, in which the car effectively locks on to the vehicle in front and slows and accelerates with the flow of the traffic, and autonomous braking, which automatically brakes the vehicle to avoid or minimise a collision.

Bosch says that, once its autonomous vehicle technology is proved, it should have no trouble convincing car buyers to adopt it.

It says a 2012 survey of British motorists showed almost one in three drivers would already consider buying a vehicle that could be driven autonomously.

“More than a quarter of drivers – and more than half of young drivers – said they would enjoy an autonomous car as much as driving themselves,” the company said in a media release.

The first step to automatic urban car control will be a so-called traffic jam assistant that can brake, accelerate and steer vehicles autonomously at up to 50km/h.

“The first generation of the traffic jam assistant is expected to enter series production in 2014,” says Bosch.

“In the following years, the feature will be enhanced to cover ever-faster speeds and more complex driving situations. Eventually, the traffic jam assistant will make fully autonomous driving a reality.”

Mr Steiger said traffic jam assistant would help drivers arrive more relaxed at their destination, even in dense traffic.

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