The development of autonomous car technology is a gradual one but it’s already in its deeper stages.
That's because driver assistance systems such as radar-based cruise control and blind spot and lane departure warning systems, which have been available for years, actually represent the first stage of autonomous car development.
In the future, these systems will be able to analyze ever more complex traffic situations and act either independently or by supporting the driver. With each innovation, automakers, as well as their suppliers, like Bosch, move a step closer to the goal of accident-free and fully-automated driving.
For Bosch, its first autonomous driving system will be a traffic jam assistant, similar to the system being launched by Mercedes-Benz on its new S Class this year and by Audi on the A8 in the near future.
Bosch says its system will be ready in 2014 but hasn’t mentioned which automotive brands will be using it. The system relies on a high-performance long-range radar sensor that can detect objects more than 800 feet away. In addition, a stereo video camera can detect objects in 3D, calculating how far objects are away from a vehicle, as well as the direction in which they are moving.
Bosch’s traffic jam assistant will be able to brake, accelerate, and steer (in limited situations) vehicles autonomously at speeds between 0 and 30 mph. 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, Bosch predicts.
As Gerhard Steiger, president of Bosch’s Chassis Systems Control division, explains, there are two major challenges remaining for the development of fully autonomous cars. The first is inner-city driving, since automated vehicle functions would have to deal with dense traffic involving a large number of road users traveling in every direction; and the second is developing a concept to ensure that the system’s functions operate reliably in all types of driving situation.
Of course, new legislation would also be required for cars that are fully controlled by computers, though that is starting to change.