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Tomorrow's tech today

23rd Aug 2015 8:00 am

Bosch believes that hard-core autonomous tech can find its way into the mass market in the near future. Akbar Merchant snags a hands-on preview.

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The Bosch Automotive Press Briefing can be termed as a festival that celebrates the future of automotive tech. Think of it as a gathering where, in a few hours, one is offered a glimpse of how cars could function in the future. This year’s briefing covered the three areas that Bosch is primarily focussing on – automated, connected and electrified driving. Here’s a look at the different technologies demonstrated.

Automatic Emergency braking
Bosch’s innovative Automatic Emergency Braking system was the first bit of tech that came my way. I was handed the keys to a brand-new Land Rover Discovery Sport and asked to approach a stationary dummy vehicle at around 35kph. The instructions: I was to stay completely away from the brakes. Taking a leap of faith, I obeyed and allowed the Automatic Emergency Braking tech to do its thing. Yes, the SUV came to a halt at a pretty safe distance from the dummy. 

This system comprises a stereo video sensor-equipped camera that can detect the risk of a collision with the vehicle in front and trigger automatic braking in case the driver does not react. The reaction time is based on the 3D measurement system the camera is equipped with. This camera works at a horizontal opening angle of 50 degrees and can manage a 3D measurement range of up to 50 metres ahead. It’s also the smallest stereo video camera that does duty in the field of automotive applications.

Rear Cross traffic alert
This system is meant to assist the driver when reversing out of perpendicular parking spaces, where view towards the rear is obstructed. The system recognises obstacles such as cars, cyclists and even pedestrians crossing behind the vehicle from the left or right at a distance of up to 50 metres. It works via two mid-range radar sensors placed at the rear of the vehicle which monitor the area alongside and behind the car. These sensors are linked to a control software which, in turn, reacts by braking the car.

I tried this system on the new Volkswagen Passat Estate demonstrator, and reversing the long wagon out of the tight demo parking area proved to be hassle-free. For countries like ours, with congested roads, this kind of system
could prove to be especially useful. 

Remote park assist
Under its automated driving vertical, Bosch also showcased this piece of tech, and it looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. Remote Park Assist automatically moves the vehicle in and out of parking spaces via remote control. Stop the car in front of your desired parking space and step out, press the button on your car key or smartphone, and voila! The vehicle will parkand pull itself into the spot. What’s more, Bosch is also working on developing a system that will let the car find a parking spot on its own.

 

Traffic sign recognition
Bosch had a Panamera S E-Hybrid at the event as a demonstrator for its predictive driving technology. The Panamera’s powertrain was connected to Bosch’s navigation system, which recognises busy city centres or restricted-speed zones from up to 2km out. The vehicle charges its battery beforehand in order to traverse the approaching area on electricity alone without any emissions. The software calculates the power requirement and adjusts the internal combustion engine of the Panamera in advance as required.

Self-Driving Car
There was a fully autonomous self-driving Tesla Model S on display at the event. As many as 50 new Bosch components facilitating autonomous driving along with electric mobility tech were fitted into this car. The vehicle records driver inputs and places visited regularly. On selecting the destination, the car allows the driver to decide the journey time by balancing automated and manual driving. Once the driver confirms the settings and moves out of the parking spot on his own, the split display in the Tesla provides him an overview of his route and also informs him of the exact part of his journey where automation is available. The map on the screen constantly keeps updating itself to provide a detailed view.

Once automation is available, the car signals the driver, who, by the press of steering wheel-mounted buttons for three seconds, can change the driving mode to fully automated. The car then takes control and sticks to its pre-set route. When the self-automated route is about to end, it alerts the driver to take manual control of the vehicle. If the driver fails to take manual control, the Tesla will look for an empty shoulder on the highway on its own and park itself.

eScooter drive system
Bosch’s innovative fuel-saving tech is not just confined to cars. The concept of electromobility has also been extended to two-wheelers, namely scooters, with an aim to offer it at the affordable end of the market. This tech is currently being used in countries like China. Bosch’s eScooter Drive System comprises a wheel-hub motor and an electronic control unit. Integrated smart solutions are under development at Bosch and are expected to have superior quality and robustness. Key advantages of this system are longer driving distance, better climbing ability and better torque and speed. Around 1.48 crore new two-wheelers hit the roads every year in India. This system can be very useful in our country as it will help reduce pollution as well as save fuel. With the recent push being given to electric vehicles in India under the FAME scheme, it won’t come as a surprise if this innovative technology finds its way onto a number of two-wheelers on our roads soon.

Importance of connected driving in future
Bosch is betting big on the internet to play a major role in developing connected car tech. Bosch’s components provide real-time traffic updates, including updates on accidents, road work zones and traffic jams. In addition to this, Bosch-developed systems collect data from the ECU of the vehicle and serve as a basis for preventive maintenance tips for the driver.

Bosch believes that by increasing automation and connected driving tech in vehicles, a larger part of road accidents taking place globally can be averted. The company is currently working on making autonomous vehicle solution as mass market as it can in order to reduce costs. This, in turn, is certain to benefit emerging markets like India in the near future.
 

INTERVIEW
Dr Dirk Hoheise
Member of the board of management, Robert Bosch GmbH

With automated driving, how far has Bosch advanced in terms of offering solutions to the end market?
At the moment, we can offer systems that are requested by the market. If a customer comes to us, we can offer them what they are expecting at the moment. So, we are able to offer all the systems that are needed and all the components in a car that are necessary. We have everything in our hands and are able to even tailor the system, which we can break down depending on the exact requirements of the customer. At the moment, it is not a problem. But this area is progressing so much, so we also have to keep up our pace.

Would India pose the biggest challenge for Bosch as a supplier, to implement autonomous driving technology?
I can give you an example from another division, i.e. car multimedia. We have a lot of engineers in Bengaluru and Coimbatore working for this entity. When we started this activity in India 15 years ago, no one believed that we would have a navigation system in India. But now, we do have navigation in India, no problem! I think this will be a similar development. In urban or rural situations, you (India) have a lot of unforeseen events.

So a multimedia kind of story for autonomous driving in India can be expected?
Yes, but not at the moment because the driving situation is so complex. At the moment, I can promise you that we can use it autonomously on highways of European or American style, but we are working constantly. The most important vision for me as an engineer is that the car is acting absolutely safe in all conditions across the globe. So if the driver or environment makes a mistake, the car can help bring you out of the dangerous situation. This is what is driving me and my teams.

Sumantra Barooah
 

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