Getting Autonomous

It isn’t just the OEMs, suppliers or researchers who are going to be responsible. Governments and municipalities must get into the game, as well.


Consider this list:

Adam Opel AG, Audi AG, BMW AG, BMW Group Forschung und Technik, Robert Bosch GmbH, Federal Road Research Institute, Continental Automotive GmbH, Continental Safety Engineering International GmbH, Continental Teves AG & Co. oHG, Daimler AG, German Aerospace Center e.V., Fraunhofer Institute of Labor Economics and Organization IAO, GEVAS Software GmbH, Heusch/Boesefeldt GmbH, University of Technique and Economy of Saarland, ifak Magdeburg e.V., MAN Truck & Bus AG, PTV Group, Institute of Automotive Engineering RWTH Aachen, Cities of Düsseldorf and Kassel, TU Braunschweig, TU Chemnitz, TU Munich, TomTom Development Germany GmbH, TRANSVER GmbH, University of Federal Armed Forces Munich, Universities of Duisburg-Essen, Kassel and Würzburg and Volkswagen AG.

Add in “numerous universities and research institutes as well as small and medium-sized companies” for good measure.

And there you find the participants in the UR:BAN research project (Urbaner Raum: Benutzergerechte Assistenzsysteme und Netzwerkmanagement, or Urban Space:
User oriented assistance systems and network management).

These organizations are all working together in an 80-million € program that is aimed at developing technologies that will provide driver assistance and traffic management for urban environments.  The completion date is expected to be early next year.

What’s important to note is that as we move toward a more automated, or autonomous, driving environment (I almost wrote “driving future,” but that would imply something that’s far off, and no one should think that this is something that is going to be developed in some galaxy far, far away, because it is happening right now, the world over, as OEMs are equipping their cars with more sensors, smarts and actuators) it isn’t just the OEMs, suppliers or researchers who are going to be responsible.

Governments and municipalities must get into the game, as well.

The same day that developments from UR:BAN were being demonstrated in Dusseldorf, Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, was making a speech in Washington, DC, during which he said, “The U.S. risks losing its leading position [in autonomous driving] due to the lack of Federal guidelines for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles.”

Samuelsson noted, “Europe has suffered to some extent by having a patchwork of rules and regulations.”  But while there can be all manner of fits and starts vis-à-vis the European Union as a whole, there are country-based developments like UR:BAN: some 50% of its funding comes from the German Federal Ministry for Economy and Energy.

Samuelsson is confident in the technology.  Volvo, which is steadily deploying autonomous functions in its vehicles as a means to help improve safety, one of the things that the company has been steadfast in support, “will accept full liability whenever one of its cars is in autonomous mode.”

But again, it comes down to what regulators are willing to do.

Samuelsson: “The absence of one set of rules means car makers cannot conduct credible tests to develop cars that meet all the different guidelines of all 50 U.S. states. If we are to ensure a smooth transition to autonomous mobility then together we must create the necessary framework that will support this.”

Auto companies that are developing electric vehicles have to work on building out the recharging infrastructure.

Auto companies and suppliers that are developing autonomous technologies for vehicles have to make sure these developments—hardware and software alike—are beyond six-sigma reliable.

It is up to regulators—the world over, because let’s face it, if BMW and VW are developing the tech in Europe and GM and Ford are doing it in the U.S., these are global companies that need to be able to sell their vehicles in all markets—to do their jobs, too.