The robot cars are coming. But not for private customers, says Bosch. In the second half of the year, the supplier will launch a large practical test with Daimler.
Autonomous driving is one of the mega-trends in the mobility sector. The technology is well developed, the first field trials are underway. The German industry majors Bosch and Daimler will soon be entering the practical phase. In San Jose, California, they are offering a Robotaxi service together this year.
For Bosch’s Managing Director Dirk Hoheisel, the robotic car is above all an answer to the traffic problems in the cities – especially in the megacities in Asia. “We need concepts that help to avoid and improve traffic.” In addition to car sharing and public transport, he sees robotic cars as part of a possible solution because they improve traffic flow, can be ordered as needed, and do not require parking They want to work together with Daimler in the US from the second half of the year on experience in the new mobility field, where the Swabian alliance may well meet competing services from Google subsidiary Waymo and General Motors ,
A so-called ride-hailing service is planned in the city of San José in Greater San Francisco, as Uber currently already offers with human drivers. The cars are ordered by app, the communication of the destination and the payment is made by mobile phone. Initially, however, this should only be made possible for selected customers; the two companies first want to gain experience with the new technology. During the pilot project, the test drives will only be performed with trained drivers and an additional system engineer on board the vehicle. The driver ensures the safety of the vehicle and can intervene in an emergency, the system engineer – or the so-called operator – starts the system and monitors it.
The technology is not yet ready for series production for the private customer market. “Bosch is currently providing systems for semi-automated (Level 2) and soon also for highly-automated driving (Level 3).” In these systems, the driver can sometimes even take his hands off the handlebars for a short time, because According to Hoheisel, the technology used in both cases is very similar: “For fully automated vehicles, significantly more technology is required For example, laser scanners and much more computing power. ” For the mass market this would not be a viable option – the vehicles would simply be too expensive.
But sensor technology, safety systems and drive alone do not provide a functioning robot taxi service. “We want to understand what users want. Is it mostly older or younger people who use these vehicles and the associated service? How is the service accepted? “, Says Hoheisel:” The new mobility concept works well on paper, but also in road traffic, which is why manufacturers are investing in expensive field tests.
The budget for the development of automated driving is gigantic. At Bosch alone, around 5,000 people work on the subject. The company will invest about four billion euros in the robot car by 2022. “Not only people, but also goods can be transported automatically. There will certainly be a lot of interesting business models on this path, “says Hoheisel, adding that autonomous driving is a matter of course on the road, but he still thinks it will have to wait a bit, even if the technology is now well known and partly available. Because there are still legal hurdles: functions in which the driver no longer has to monitor the system, are not yet approved for road traffic.