Driver Assistance on the Path to Autonomous Driving
The venue relocation was a success. Last year’s Conference was held under the motto "Turning point for driver assistance" at Palmengarten Gesellschaftshaus in Frankfurt (see on-line report from Markus Schöttle dated 28 April 2017). Today and tomorrow (18 and 19 April 2018), 220 attendees will convene at RheinMain CongressCenter in Wiesbaden to learn about and discuss news concerning driver assistance systems, automated driving and autonomous vehicles. Welcoming the audience in the brand-new conference and trade fair centre, Editor-in-chief Dr. Alexander Heintzel said that this number was considerably higher than last year’s attendance. A total of 22 exhibitors are accompanying the Conference with their stands and products.
The 4th International ATZ Conference on Automated Driving, organised in Wiesbaden under the motto "Driver Assistance Systems – From Assistance to Automated Driving", indicates that we have passed the turning point and are working towards achieving the next maximum. Many driver assistance systems are sufficiently up to date with sensors and actuators to be considered ready for serial production. The next step requires interlinking these sensors and actuators, intensifying the car’s networking with the cloud and the infrastructure, and extending the control units into computing systems. Level 5 autonomous driving systems will have to process complex algorithms in real time and evaluate huge volumes of measured data from radar, lidar and camera systems. This trend will also be reflected in a new name for the Conference in 2019: "Automated Driving – From Driver Assistance to Autonomous Driving – 5th International ATZ Conference on Autonomous Driving".
Hafner: reinventing the automobile
But let us return to what is happening in Wiesbaden. Conference organiser Professor Torsten Bertram (TU Dortmund University) held the introductory talk in the conference centre, saying it was nice "to see the events programme focus more on the important ancillary conditions like sensor systems rather than just the functions". Daimler and Continental then introduced their keynote speakers.
Michael Hafner presented, from Daimler’s viewpoint, the reinvention of the automobile and its progression towards accident-free autonomous driving. "Referring to reinventing the automobile in the title of my presentation is a bold statement, but it is not an exaggeration”, considering the revolution under way in sensors, actuators and computing power. Hafner focussed on showing how such systems could be developed and operated in a truly safe manner to make the self-driving car a reality. He explained that, even though the Conference’s name is changing, the basic components underlying the new technology are the established driver assistance systems, which have been known and mature since the first system, the ABS, was introduced in 1978. Offering safe systems to end customers requires extensive testing in advance. He said Daimler had completed road tests covering around ten million kilometres in Europe, Australia, the USA and China to discover scenarios "that wouldn’t occur to you sitting at a desk". Greater attention will be paid to collecting data and covering vast distances with camera, lidar and radar systems. This will require highly complex testing procedures and test cases before VDA Level 3 and Level 4 systems can be launched. Hafner cited the example of a traffic scenario in Melbourne that is unusual to Europeans and is normally not considered: "You have to veer to the left before turning right".
"And it’s critical for us to gain the end customer’s trust when introducing the Level 4 and 5 systems", said Hafner. The buyer won’t order these systems or use them in practice unless he’s convinced that they work. Daimler plans to convince him with special training at the dealership and by producing explanatory videos. The advantages to be communicated include the fact that the machine always functions. "It doesn’t drink alcohol” and remains attentive every second of the day or night, in summer as in winter. Hafner said safeguarding the advanced driver assistance systems is essential, including developing them in accordance with the ISO 26262 standard. This is complex but nevertheless worthwhile and feasible. He concluded: "We must establish trust in technology" when it comes to autonomous driving. This would offer the customer an entirely new perspective on mobility in a third space: besides the home and workplace, the car’s interior would also become an experience.
Lauxmann: making cities livable again
In the second keynote speech, Ralph Lauxmann from Continental laid out a vision for a new world of experience in cities. "We’re developing multi-modal mobility plans for this purpose", Lauxmann elaborated. Autonomous people movers and electric robotic taxis could lead to fewer accidents, reduce stress during driving, and keep air pollution outside the city limits. These two new vehicle classes would be the suitable link between individual transport in privately owned cars and public transport by bus and rail for better and more seamless traffic. This could realize the dream of making cities livable again by shrinking areas previously reserved for traffic, i.e. roads and car parks, converting them into green spaces or using them for residential purposes.
Countries such as Japan and Singapore have already recognized the problems and are collaborating with Continental in developing modern approaches to traffic. New solutions would be needed for safer, more sustainable road traffic. However, Lauxmann stated, this would require substantial investments in networking. Current 4G and 5G telecommunication projects are inadequate; much more effort must be devoted to advancing and improving connectivity and the infrastructure. This would include enhancing on-board computing capacities. "Some people say that a single main computer will soon replace the hundred control units in a vehicle. I don’t share that opinion, but complexity will increase one way or another." Using tools to ensure functional safety and reliability would be a key factor in mastering this complexity.
The 4th ATZ Conference will continue in Wiesbaden tomorrow, when visitors can attend a newly added presentation by Mircea Gradu from Velodyne Lidar addressing sensor technologies from an international viewpoint for Level 3 to Level 5 driving. Alternatively, they can reconvene in April 2019 for the 5th Conference at the venue in the Rhine-Main region.