Bosch extends autonomous testing to Japan

| Transport

Unique driving conditions in Japan will help Bosch to take the development of autonomous driving technology to the next level.

With testing of driverless vehicles on public roads already taking place in Germany and the USA, Bosch has now taken its autonomous ambitions a step further with the inclusion of Japan in its test regime, taking advantage of the fundamentally different driving conditions that exist in the country.

According to Bosch board member, Dr Dirk Hoheisel, “Because people there drive on the left and because of the complex traffic conditions, Japan provides us with valuable insights for development.”

Tests are taking place in Japan on main roads near the cities of Tohoku and Tomei and at Bosch proving grounds in Shiobara and Memanbetsu, involving a team of engineers that join the 2500 strong Bosch workforce globally dedicated to the development of driver assist systems and autonomous vehicles.

Having already worked in this field for the last 5 years, the engineering expertise available at Bosch is proving to be of benefit to the team in Japan, who have the experience of their counterparts in Germany and the USA to draw on. Autonomous vehicles have been plying the Interstate 280 in the USA and the A81 autobahn in Germany, testing their ability to accelerate, brake and overtake autonomously as well as indicating and changing lanes when necessary based on input from Bosch sensors and accurate mapping information from TomTom. According to Dr Hoheisel, 10,000 km of testing has already been completed without incident.

Enabling technology from Bosch

Bosch is able to set itself apart in the world of autonomous driving due to its broad range of technological expertise in sensors, connectivity, control systems and navigation.

Last year, the company sold more than 50 million surround sensors for driver assistance systems and the number of radar and video sensors sold doubled in 2014 and will do so again when 2015 figures are published. Its ten-millionth 77 GHz radar sensor is expected to roll off the production line in 2016 for use in systems such as adaptive cruise control (ACC).

All this technology is contributing significantly to making road traffic safer. The UN estimates that 1.25 million people worldwide are killed in road accidents each year and 90% of these accidents are caused by human error. Bosch accident research predicts that increasing automation can lower accident rates by up to a third in Germany alone.

Legal issues

With technology making significant leaps of progress towards full vehicle autonomy, the legal framework to enable them to be used on the roads still needs considerable work to be done. This matter is now on the political agenda in the USA, Japan and Germany and there are signs of impending changes in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which Germany has also ratified.

On April 23, 2016, amendments to the convention will come into force. The member states will then have to transfer these amendments into national law. They allow automated driving so long as the driver is able to override or disable it. In the sphere of vehicle registration law, an informal working group of UNECE (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) has also begun looking at Regulation R.79, which only allows automatic intervention in steering up to a limit of 10 kph.

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