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Autonomous driving: digitally relaxed into the future

Autonomous driving is becoming a reality: there are self-driving cars and buses without drivers. That is how far the technology is - and those are its limits.

  • Why the development of autonomous cars makes sense

  • How manufacturers make cars fit for self-driving

  • According to the Prognos study, autonomous cars will not become established until 2040

Driverless cars should be able to participate in road traffic in Germany as early as 2022. Autonomous motor vehicles of the so-called "level four" should then be allowed to drive on public roads on certain, fixed routes. The Bundestag has now passed the necessary law

With fully automated driving, the computer can take full control of the car for certain applications without being monitored by a human driver.

In emergencies, the system should also bring the vehicle to a stop on the side of the road. According to the Ministry of Transport, this technology could be used for shuttle connections or freight transport.

The advantages of autonomous driving

However, the Germans do not yet seem to be really convinced of autonomous driving. According to surveys, 45 percent of motorists do not believe in the reliability of vehicle technology or are afraid of hackers. Digital euphoria looks different.

But will the new law and the development of autonomous cars still make sense? In any case. Because the potential of this technology is enormous - for them Society, the security and for theBusiness locationEurope.

For thesociety there is an opportunity to better involve the elderly or people with limited performance - and each individual can use their time productively or for recreation. Automated taxis or buses may travel so cheaply that rural areas can also be better explored. Traffic runs more smoothly, and goods can be transported more rationally and in a more environmentally friendly way.

Depending on the degree of automation, theAccident numbersreduce further, because human error is the cause of 90 percent of all crashes. However, this process will be tedious because conventional and automated vehicles will continue to drive in mixed traffic for many years to come. It must be prevented that the technical systems fail or simply misjudge traffic situations. The development of the best technology for autonomous driving is therefore extremely important.

Prognos study: Autonomous cars will only slowly gain acceptance

Success in research and development is one thing - the reality on the streets is another. A current study by the Prognos Research Institute on autonomous driving for the ADAC shows: Automated driving will only slowly gain acceptance. This is mainly due to the fact that cars are in use for an average of up to twenty years - and new technologies therefore only gradually become noticeable in the overall stock.

So the percentage of new vehicles that the driver is at allHighways can completely turn away from the driving task, according to Prognos in the "optimistic" case increase from 2.4 percent in 2020 to at least 70 percent in 2050. From 2030, cars with Citypilot, i.e. the ability toboth on the highway and in the city to drive alone, gradually appearing on the roads. And cars will only be offered in greater numbers after 2040completely autonomous Get from door to door, so you no longer need a driver on country roads.

That means: According to the Prognos researchers, normal vehicles will be on the road alongside fully automated vehicles well into the 21st century. This also puts the hope of quick safety gains through autonomous cars in the next few decades into perspective. The fact that fewer and fewer people die or are injured in road traffic is more likely to be spreadpowerful assistance systems lying: helpers such as the emergency brake assistant intervene today if a person makes a mistake. Without any autonomous technology.

The technology competition is in full swing

The competition for the best technology for autonomous driving is in full swing worldwide. According to the opinion from VW boss Herbert Diess However, German car manufacturers are lagging “one to two years behind” in developing the technology for autonomous cars. Almost all experts place companies in the USA at the top of their know-how - especially the US company Waymo, which belongs to the empire of Google.

In the US state of Arizona, more precisely a suburb of Phoenix, leaves Waymo for a while Robotic cars drive as taxis - but still with a safety driver behind the wheel. Customers can order their trip via the app and will be picked up from wherever they are. The cars that Waymo uses are said to be so good that the security guard only has to intervene 0.09 times for every 1,000 miles driven.

Until recently, German manufacturers could only dream of such degrees of freedom in automated driving. BMW is still busy collecting and analyzing data in real traffic. On the specially foundedBMW campus In Unterschleißheim near Munich, around 1,700 specialists are now working on developing the necessary software algorithms for highly automated driving.

40 BMWs are on the road as test vehicles and collect huge amounts of data and images in traffic. For the storage, BMW hastwo data centers with a capacity of 500 petabytes (PB) - a size of memory that would hold five times all the words ever written and printed in human history.

The development lag compared to the Americans may be due to the fact that the German automobile manufacturers work with the notorious German thoroughness. Christian Weiß, system developer at Daimler, emphasizes: "Basically, security comes before speed for us." For him, the Tesla accidents are a good example of where immature technology is used in production vehicles. Daimler expert Timo Winterling adds: "To understand a scene, we have to get the most out of the sensors."

The latest project from Daimler is a Ridesharing in the USA. Some commute in Silicon Valley - also monitored by a security driver S-class Mercedes independently back and forth between the western part of San Jose and its city center. The ride-sharing service can be ordered via the app. The project is the next step in catching up with the Americans in development.

The IT industry is working on the digital infrastructure

VW has one in Hamburg Fleet trial "Autonomous driving" started. The test track is located in downtown Hamburg and will be nine kilometers long when it is finished. Five e-Golfs will be used to ensure the degree of automation Level 4 dominate. That means: Here too, the driver at least temporarily surrenders the driving task to the car. 11 laser scanners, 7 radars and 14 cameras are on board so that the cars can fully capture what is happening on the road. Helge Neuner from VW Group Research explains: "From all the information our software learns to interpret other road users and to predict their behavior in certain situations."

The decision-making basis for automatic driving actions is in the car five gigabytes of data per minute for processing. The computing power on board is roughly the same as that of 15 laptops. Alexander Hitzinger, VW Deputy Head of Autonomous Driving: "The electric Golfs can calculate the traffic situation on the Hamburg test track for around ten seconds." Nevertheless, fully autonomous driving is a Herculean task.

In the future, cars should be able to handle all possible traffic scenarios, all over the world. And in the future, the systems must not only be roadworthy, but also have a data-secure design in order to be able to ward off possible cyber attacks. There is still a long way to go before then.

Despite this Herculean task, VW wants to try to develop and commercialize the technology for self-driving cars by around 2025. Initially not in Germany, but in the USA and China. Background: In these countries the necessary legislation so far. At VW, the necessary software comes from the "Group Innovation" team, which will form the basis of the recently founded Volkswagen Autonomy GmbH (VWAT) from the beginning of 2020. VWAT works with the US manufacturer ford together.

As the first manufacturer ever bringsVolkswagen In 2020, so-called car-to-infrastructure communication will be standard in the new VW Golf. At the same time, the state of Lower Saxony is starting to retrofit traffic lights and set up cameras at intersections. Communication does not take place via cellular technology, but with a range of around 800 metersvia WLAN.With this technology, cars can receive helpful information about the flow of traffic and traffic obstructions - a next step into the future of the fully autonomous car.

Driverless transport vehicles in trial operation

The trucks from also communicate via WLAN, which does not require a central server or a cloudMANandDB Schenker, which have already been tested on the A9. The idea behind it: Multiple trucks, who were traveling on the same route to form a (platooning) unit. The driver of the first truck sets the pace and direction; all other trucks follow him automatically in the slipstream every 15 meters, steering and braking automatically in time with the lead vehicle. However, the hope for significant fuel savings was not fulfilled.

In Europe, even without a driver, there are currently some public ones Local buses, for example in Berlin and in Bad Birnbach in Lower Bavaria. * The robot buses can still only travel a programmed route at a maximum of 15 km / h as if on rails, but thanks to many sensors stop reliably in front of any obstacle.

Networked VW Golf, driverless buses: TheAutomation on our roads started long ago. Now we humans still have to learn to trust machines.

Who will be liable in the event of an accident in the future? The legal situation

Current everything clearly regulated: Anyone who makes a mistake as a driver and causes an accident bears full responsibility - their own vehicle insurance pays for the damage suffered by the other party. Insurance will continue to pay in the future when the machine is no longer controlled by humansautomated driving As the driver, you remain responsible if you have to intervene at short notice because the system prompts you to do so. If you don't react and an accident happens, the police are also interested, because the point is to punish the perpetrator.

At theautonomous driving If you become a passenger, you cannot intervene and you are no longer liable - in the event of an accident, your insurance company will still pay you. If there is a technical error, the manufacturer will take recourse.

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