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Bosch steps up driverless testing with Teslas

Lane changer: Bosch engineers took 1400 hours to retrofit this Tesla Model S with its autonomous highway driving technology that includes back-up systems for braking and steering.

Tesla Model S chosen for Bosch’s latest highway autonomous drive system tests

20 May 2015

GERMAN electronics company Bosch has retrofitted two all-electric Tesla Model S sedans with automated driving equipment to test its latest hands-off driving technology.

The cars are already running along highways in California and Germany, guided by a system comprising 50 new components linked by 1300 metres of cable, installed by Bosch engineers in a 1400-hour operation.

The system appears to be an extension of Bosch’s existing autonomous cruise control, and only good for freeway driving rather than urban slog.

However, the vehicles can change lanes automatically, driving from on-ramp to off-ramp without driver intervention.

Revealing the project at its annual technology briefing at Boxberg, Germany, Bosch board member Dirk Hoheisel said the company chose the Teslas because “they combine two automotive industry trends: electrification and automation”.

“This presents a particular challenge, but one that Bosch relishes,” he said.

Bosch said the key to the system was its stereo video camera that could recognise lanes, traffic signs and clear spaces in traffic.

In a video demonstration of the system, a 360-degree image of surrounding vehicles is shown projected on to the Tesla Model S’s big dash-mounted screen.

The guidance system can also alert the driver when to switch between automated and manual driving.

Mr Hoheisel said Bosch took a safety first approach to the automated driving system.

“Back-up systems are also available for the two test vehicles’ power supply and vital ECUs,” he said.

Part of the complexity of retrofitting the two cars was to ensure that both had redundancy in safety-critical systems such as braking and steering.

The cars were both fitted with an iBooster electromechanical brake booster and the ESP (electronic stability program) braking control system.

“These Bosch components can brake the car independently of each other, without any need for driver intervention,” the company said.

One of the cars is based at Bosch’s Silicon Valley test centre in Palo Alto, and the other at its German Abstatt test facility.

The cars are technically identical, allowing the two teams to compare results.

Bosch has employed BMW 325d Touring wagons in automated driving tests since 2013.

The drivers are all specially trained and “know the safety precautions inside out” said Bosch.

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