Mercedes-Benz and Bosch have declared ground-zero for autonomous driving in a city setting will be a metropolis in California, with deployments starting in the second half of 2019.
The companies will be putting fleets of fully autonomous shuttle services on controlled routes in a yet-unnamed major California city (though the companies did say it would be in Silicon Valley), offering users the opportunity to experience intelligently connected mobility at the grass-roots level.
“The decisive factor is to introduce a safe, dependable and mature system,” said Dr Michael Hafner, Head of Automated Driving at Daimler AG. “Safety has the highest priority, and is the constant theme of all aspects and development stages on our way to the start of series production. If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed.”
Daimler Mobility Services will be the operator of the test fleet and the app-based services that include car sharing (though car2go), ride-hailing (mytaxi) and multi-modal platforms (moovel). Nvidia will supply the artificial-intelligence platform.
In-city driving is the most challenging aspect of fully-automated driving, because there is so much going on and coming from all directions, unlike highway driving. But development of full-time automated driving has to be done in stages to maintain the safety protocol.
“Developing automated driving to a level ready for series production is like a decathlon,” said Dr Stephan Hönle, Senior Vice President Business Unit Automated Driving at Robert Bosch GmbH. “It’s not enough to be good in one or two areas. Like us, you have to master all disciplines. Only then will we succeed in bringing automated driving to the roads and the city safely.”
The prime challenge of fully-automated and driverless motoring in a city environment is quick and reliable recognition of the vehicle’s surroundings, with the processing of data gathered by all the various sensors and sensing system requiring a tremendously powerful computer to be analyzed often at the same time by various systems.
A network of control units collates the data gathered by radar, cameras, LIDAR and ultrasound, analyzes it within milliseconds (reportedly hundreds of trillions of operations per second), and formulates vehicle movement responses.
Using the mobile app, users can order a car for use or book a ride in the defined city area, or they can also book a driverless car going by on the street (much like flagging down a cab at the curb).
Bosch and Daimler employees working on autonomous driving share office space in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as in Sunnyvale, California. Sunnyvale lies between Palo Alto and San Jose in the Valley, so any of those would satisfy the criteria for the field test.
Daimler is responsible to adapting the drive system in the vehicles, and to supply the vehicles for the project (Daimler has permission from the California government to test autonomous vehicles in the Sunnyvale area). Bosch is providing the components (sensors, actuators and control units) for data gathering.