Dr. Volkmar Denner at the 14th Stuttgart International Symposium
In the coming years, the automobile will undergo major changes. “The traffic of the future is electric, automated, and connected,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, the chairman of the Bosch board of management, during his March 18 presentation at “Automotive and Engine Technology,” the 14th Stuttgart International Symposium. “Automated driving can drastically reduce the number of accidents, and thus significantly increase road safety,” Denner said. “Moreover, a better flow of traffic also reduces fuel consumption.” Today, assistance functions are already assuming a broad range of driving functions. In the future, even higher-performance systems will provide drivers with increasingly comprehensive support, and gradually pave the way for fully automated driving.
The Bosch CEO highlighted the benefits of automated driving, and set out the challenges that still need to be solved. “The prospect of saving 1.2 million lives is a great source of motivation,” Denner said, in reference to the estimated number of road traffic deaths around the world each year. In Germany, almost 90 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers. Here, comprehensive support in critical situations as well as in monotonous driving situations could significantly increase road safety. But more than that, automated driving is also economical. By drawing on up-to-the-minute traffic data, it can improve the flow of traffic and thus decrease the fuel consumption of every vehicle. And last, but not least: “Automated driving also keeps senior citizens mobile, and thus makes a contribution to social well-being,” Denner said.
Automated driving will come gradually
For more than ten years, adaptive cruise control has automatically controlled speed, as well as distance to vehicles ahead. The traffic jam assistant, which keeps vehicles travelling at speeds up to 60 kph in their lanes, is now being brought to market. This support for drivers will gradually be extended. “By 2020 at the latest, the technologies required for highly-automated driving will reach maturity. In the decade that follows, we expect to see fully-automated driving,” Denner said. While drivers in highly automated vehicles must take control of the vehicles after a short time, fully automated driving will allow them to sit back and let the car do the work, at least on freeways. And Bosch will be automating parking even sooner. Bosch technology will soon be easing cars into free parking spots autonomously via a smart phone app. In a few years, cars will even be able to find spots on their own in parking garages.
While technical limitations mean that the pace of development is gradual, this does have its advantages. “It gives drivers the time to gradually grasp the benefits of the new technology,” Denner said. Today’s drivers already show openness to these innovations. A Bosch survey in six European countries showed that 59 percent of respondents considered automated driving to be a good thing. However, they wanted to be able to actively switch it off. In purely economic terms, the market for driver assistance technologies is already an attractive one with excellent growth prospects. “By 2016, Bosch will be generating one billion euros in sales with driver assistance systems,” Denner said.
The Bosch “Automated Driving” project team was formed in 2011, and has since been working in Stuttgart and Palo Alto on the future of driving. And at the start of 2013, Bosch was the first automotive supplier to bring its automated driving technologies to German freeways. “The early tests in real traffic conditions have significantly sped up the development process,” Denner said.