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Bosch beginning autonomous driving testing in Japan; 3rd engineering location after Germany and the US

Bosch has begun on-road testing of autonomous driving in Japan, its third location for the development work after Germany and the US. Bosch’s initial goal is the development of the highway pilot, which will allow cars to drive autonomously on freeways and freeway-like roads starting in 2020.

Worldwide, nearly 2,500 Bosch engineers are working to develop driver assistance systems and automated driving further. Like their colleagues in Germany and the US, the team in Japan is already conducting tests with automated test vehicles on public roads. The test drives are being conducted on expressways around the cities of Tohoku and Tomei in the Tochigi and Kanagawa prefectures, as well as on the two Bosch proving grounds in Shiobara and Memanbetsu.

Because people there drive on the left, and because of the complex traffic conditions, Japan provides us with valuable insights for development.

—Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH

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The new team in Japan is benefiting from the findings of their colleagues in Germany and the US, who have been working on automated driving since 2011. Since early 2013, Bosch has been operating test vehicles on the A81 freeway in Germany and Interstate 280 in the United States. The teams have now completed more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of test drives without an accident, Hoheisel said.

The Bosch test vehicles guide themselves through traffic, accelerating, braking, and overtaking as necessary. They also decide for themselves, and depending on the traffic situation, when to activate the turn signal and change lanes.

The basis for all this is sensors that provide a detailed picture of the vehicle’s surroundings, plus highly accurate map data from BMW partner TomTom. A computer uses this data to analyze and predict the behavior of other road users, and on that basis makes decisions about the automated vehicles’ driving strategy.

Legal framework. If automated driving is to become reality in production vehicles, and not just in prototypes, the legal conditions for this have to be created. This matter is now on the political agenda in the US, Japan, and Germany.

There are signs of impending change in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which Germany has also ratified. On 23 April 2016, amendments to the convention will come into force. The member states will then have to transfer these amendments into national law. They allow automated driving so long as the driver is able to override or disable it.

In the sphere of vehicle registration law, an informal working group of UNECE (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) has also begun looking at Regulation R.79, which only allows automatic intervention in steering up to a limit of 10 km/h. The validation of automated driving functions is another challenge. Using current methods, a highway pilot has to complete several million kilometers’ worth of testing before it can be released for production. Bosch is now working on entirely new approaches.

Comments

Lad

Autonomous is a misnomer; at this point in development it's really collision avoidance.

Juan Valdez

Lad, I beg to differ. Computers in these autonomous cars build 3D maps and understand their surroundings 360 degree around them. With precision mapping they will soon be able to know within a couple of centimeters where they are in any road, anywhere in the world. This capability will allow much better driving safety than simple collision avoidance, and will quickly make the human driver a true liability.

I can't wait myself. My 90+ year old parents who just gave up their last car, would be happy too!!

Account Deleted

Musk said he would not use the term autonomous until Tesla’s autopilot could operate without any human supervision ever. Currently it is just a human monitored autopilot just as it is in modern airplanes. However, Tesla’s game plan is to improve that autopilot by adding better sensors to coming versions of Tesla’s cars and off cause through OTA updates of the autopilot’s software. Musk expects that their autopilot will become fully autonomous by 2018. At that time Tesla’s customers will be in the awkward situation that they have got a car that can drive better than they can under all circumstances but the law will still require them to be in the car and be ready to take control. Musk has said that the fully autonomous autopilot will include a redundant autopilot system that takes over if the first autopilot system fails for whatever reason. Only in the case that both autopilot systems fail simultaneously will the human driver be needed. That might happen very seldom. Indeed if the autopilot fails once every 100,000 miles the combined system will fail once every 10,000,000,000 miles (100,000*100,000). We are talking about critical technical malfunctions not about accidents that will happen also when the system is working as intended.

The point is that in 2018 driving a new Tesla with redundant autonomous autopilot the probability that you will ever be prompted to take over from the car will be practically zero but the law will still require that you sit in that driver seat and be ready to take control. In 2018 Tesla will be gathering data from millions of daily miles driven in autopilot mode and in manual mode. Tesla will use that data to prove to the authorities that their cars should be approved for fully autonomous driving without any requirement that a driver be present in the driver’s seat. Tesla will probably need all of 2018 to collect data and the law somewhere in the world will subsequently need all of 2019 to be changed to allow for non-human monitored autonomous cars on public roads. So in 2020 Tesla could be ready to launch the world’s first autonomous taxi service and that will become Tesla’s main business going forward.

HarveyD

Very positive predictions from Henrik. One could add another 3 to 5 years but it will come (as an option) during or early in the next decade?

How costly and how effective will it be?

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