From driver assistance systems to autonomous driving

    Thanks to the latest technologies, automobiles have become increasingly safe and clean. Now the aim is for a car that can find its own way. The German automotive industry is a leader as regards the various stages of automation and in conceiving autonomous driving.

    Thanks to the latest technologies, automobiles have become increasingly safe and clean. Now the aim is for a car that can find its own way. The German automotive industry is a leader as regards the various stages of automation and in conceiving autonomous driving.

    On the way to automation

    The software found in today's vehicles has around 100 million lines of code – a Boeing 737 MAX, on the other hand, has around 15 million. This comparison illustrates the dimension of digitalization in road traffic. But we need to move faster to leverage the true potential of digitalization for transportation in Germany and achieve better climate protection, more growth, greater freedom, and increased safety.

    We invented the car, and now we are reinventing it. Clean, safe, and digital. Germany is a pioneer in the development of technologies for automated driving and the first country in the world to pass a pertinent law: An important step toward real-world operation. This situation will enable us to secure a new technological leadership on the global market and many new jobs for the future, as long as digitalization continues to be developed resolutely. This shows we can do it, if we really want to, and are allowed to. To remain an international leader and to be able to build future jobs, we need to ramp-up six areas.

    Faster with 5G

    The new 5G network means ten times the data transmission rate compared with the current mobile communications standard, 4G. Not only smartphone users are awaiting this new technology – 5G also provides an important prerequisite for the traffic of the future. Many vehicles already feature assistance systems that include networked and automated functions. High data volumes and a fast transmission rate are the basis for the digitalization of traffic, as well as in all other areas of life. Nationwide, dynamic mobile communications coverage must be available by 2025, and all major traffic routes and urban areas should be covered by 5G. This is the only way to fully exploit the potential of connected and automated driving.

    Faster toward autonomous driving

    The automotive industry has developed the technologies to test the next stages of automated driving. Stage one is cruise control and lane assist. Stage two is automated parking and passing. With stage three comes highly automated driving, where a car can navigate traffic without any human control. The driver can read a book or watch a movie, but must be able to intervene at any time. At level four, the driver practically becomes a passenger and the car can make its own decisions, such as merging into freeway traffic, avoiding a construction zone, or changing lanes in the city. Level five marks the beginning of fully autonomous driving, with vehicles driving from A to B on their own.

    The legal conditions have been decided, now they need to be quickly implemented – in the form of regulations that companies can work with. If this succeeds, Germany can take up a global pole position in this field, with the promise of much growth and many jobs. If it does not succeed, the government will have gambled away the technological lead that engineers and IT experts have built up for Germany.

    Faster toward greater safety

    However, driver assistance systems and automated and driverless functionalities are only one part of the solution to the challenges of mobility. Equally important is the exchange of relevant information, also known as networking. Networking not only ensures that vehicles act intelligently themselves and support the driver, but that vehicles, drivers, and passengers can also benefit from communication with other road users and the infrastructure. Regarding the latter, the requirements increase with the degree of automation. The infrastructure initially has a supporting function, but it is increasingly going to become a necessary condition and must not become a limiting factor for automated driving. Traffic lights, for example, must become more intelligent so that they can network with the vehicle or other road users. In addition, this type of communication allows signals from emergency and rescue services to be sent to other vehicles, either directly or via backend systems, depending on the application. In this way, the networked and, in particular, autonomous vehicles are informed, among other things, of the direction from which emergency vehicles are approaching and at what speed, or of the location of a hazardous area on the road that still needs to be secured. This can make a significant contribution to faster action and reaction in dangerous situations.

    Faster toward more software

    Software is at the core of digitalization. With billions invested in R&D, the major automotive manufacturers are developing their own independent software. This is not only the basis for autonomous driving and greater safety in traffic, but also for the new business models resulting from the digitalization of vehicles. Software is thus becoming a decisive growth factor in Germany's key automotive industry. Our goal is not just to catch up, but to set the global standards in the future and keep value creation in Germany, as well as bring new value to Germany. Our companies are already investing billions.

    Now politicians must follow suit and offer manufacturers and suppliers comprehensive support for R&D. This is a smart investment in the future of Germany as a business location. The automotive industry employs more than 800,000 people in its companies. The skills of the workforce must be transformed into the digital era. In addition, investments must be made in supporting start-ups, the innovative strength and agility of which are central to the development of future technologies. This requires capital as well as international experts who need to be able to work in Germany without difficulty. A modern immigration law and an open culture are crucial for this to happen.

    Faster toward greater data security

    The software inside vehicles nowadays contains many times the lines of code of a Boeing 737 MAX. Added to this are more than 100 electronic control units. Increased networking also raises the risk of external intervention in vehicles, which is potentially hazardous. The automotive industry has already reacted to these scenarios and has thoroughly addressed the cyber security of these new systems as well as the legal basis and regulations. Technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication and 5G are intended to make driving safer, more environmentally friendly, and more comfortable. To ensure that potential cyberattacks have no impact on driving safety and that suitable protective mechanisms can be integrated, the relevant threats are taken into account at an early stage in the development cycle of new vehicle models. We need homogenous technical standards throughout Europe for an exchange of data based on European values, and that makes German and European industry and society independent of international monopolies. However, participation in data spaces should be completely voluntary, and we categorically reject legal requirements for the disclosure of commercially relevant data. This is the only way to create the level playing field needed to maintain competitiveness and innovation in Europe. These shared data spaces are needed in traffic control, charging infrastructures, online services, payment services, and much more besides. For example, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) is a founding member of Catena-X, an association that is developing an industry standard for electronic data exchange for the supply chain that enables security and value creation at the same time. With regard to mobility data, our companies are working in the Mobility Data Space to create a German precedence for a European solution.

    Faster toward better climate protection

    The digital networking of vehicles with each other and with the infrastructure will make traffic more efficient, smoother, and even safer. The data will optimize traffic management and driving behavior, thus allowing for greater climate protection. The best examples of this are transport-as-a-service offerings that avoid empty runs and optimize freight routes to save fuel and ultimately electricity. There is also a lot of potential in the area of sharing mobility: Car sharing as well as ridesharing, the digital pooling of several passengers with similar destinations in one vehicle, will ensure more efficient and resource-saving mobility. Digitalization can have a very large impact on the climate if we succeed in optimizing production and logistics and making transportation smart with as few empty trips as possible. This, too, belongs on the agenda of the next German government.

    We invented the car, and now we are reinventing it. Clean, safe, and digital. Digitalization will open up a whole new world for consumers. Autonomous shuttles in cities and in the countryside, new digital experiences in the car, new assistance systems, and digitally optimized traffic management that promises less congestion and shorter journey times: The future of Germany's key industry has never been so promising.

    Systems for precise environmental detection

    Other scanning systems include LiDAR (light detection and ranging): Systems for more accurate detection of the immediate surroundings that provide supplementary information to radar-based systems.

    Cameras as optical systems are used in the detection of lane markings, traffic signs, traffic lights, and other road users.

    Ultrasonic sensors have been installed in vehicles as parking aids since the early 1990s. Ultrasonic sensors emit sound waves; the reflected components of the sound waves are collated and the distance to the detected object is calculated. In the meantime, their range of functions has expanded considerably. They can measure parking spaces while the car is in motion and detect when vehicles are in the adjacent lane.

    In the past, radar, cameras, LiDAR, and ultrasonic sensors were used independently. Now, the relevant data is intelligently and simultaneously linked with the help of sensor fusion. This is what enables automated driving from the outset. Particular attention is paid to functional reliability. Redundancies and plausibility checks, i.e., internal system checks to ensure that the environmental data have been recorded correctly, prevent incorrect interpretation of the data. To this end, the signals from the vehicle sensors are compared with each other. Changes to the steering and engine are only made if the data is harmonized.

    Coordination Unit for Networked and Automated Driving

    Henry Kuhle

    Team Lead

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