Like rival tier one automotive parts supplier Delphi, German parts and electronics company Bosch is working hard to develop and test autonomous driving technology.
So far, its specialist division in Palo Alto, California have already developed and produce the kind of things we’ve come to expect from high-end luxury cars, including adaptive cruise control, road sign assist, and automated parking assistants. Later this year, its traffic jam assistant technology will enter into series production, allowing cars to take over braking, steering and accelerating in same-lane stop and go traffic.
One day, Bosch says, our cars will do most of the driving — and to help us understand that, it has produced a video envisaging what that might be like for us as passengers, featuring a Tesla Model S electric car as its automated car of the near future.
A perfect platform
With a fully software-based display system, large 17-inch touchscreen display, over-the air updates, and enough on-board computing power and graphics processors to make even a gaming PC weep in a head-to-head frag fest, the Tesla Model S is the perfect car to chose to demonstrate future advanced self-driving technology.
Since Tesla’s own announcement back in October last year that every new Tesla Model S would be built with autonomous driving hardware built in to the car for activation at a later date via an over-the-air update, that suitability has only got better.
So it’s no surprise that Bosch has used the Model S as the basis for this particular demonstration, even though we suspect a large portion of the video is in fact a virtual mockup of how a future system could work rather than a functioning prototype.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the $80,000+ luxury sedan used to give us a vision of what self-driving cars could be like. At the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, Swiss automotive think tank Rinspeed used the Tesla Model S as the basis for its futuristic, fully-autonomous XchangE concept car.
Unlike Rinspeed’s lavish, over-the-top Jetsonesque XchangE however, the system Bosch shows us in this recent video is far more tangible to everyday life. What’s more, it presents a future user interface which we could imagine being used in a future Tesla software update.
In Bosch’s vision of the future, on-board systems not only learn our regular patterns and routes — something Tesla is already starting to implement in its cars with calendar-aware climate control and GPS programming — but also use real-time data to change our routes for maximum temporal and fuel efficiency.
As Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk has been careful to point out in the past, autonomous driving will most likely take the form of autopilot-like features, taking over the majority of driving tasks but requiring a driver to be behind the wheel and able to take over if required.
As such, the driver may spend the majority of their time letting the car do the hard work, only taking over when called to do so by the car’s software.
To take advantage of this, Bosch presents an idea we haven’t encountered before, too: prioritising travel time versus driving time. Instead of automatically picking the shortest or quickest route, the system of the near future would allow drivers to prioritise routes which have more potential for autonomous driving. That way, a driver can pick a route which takes 31 minutes split between 20 minutes of automated driving and 11 minutes of manual driving over a total trip of 29 minutes, split between 13 minutes of automated driving and 16 minutes of manual driving.
While they might be in the car longer, the former allows the driver to spend less time driving and more time doing other things — like catching up on email — compared to the latter. With a large 17-inch touchscreen display, the Tesla Model S is well-suited to this demonstration, with plenty of space for the driver to catch up on email or arrange their day as if they had a laptop in front of them.
All the time, the car’s on-board computer displays a countdown timer which automatically adjusts according to traffic and conditions, letting the driver know how long they have before they’ll need to start driving manually again.
Another neat feature we like from Bosch’s video is the ability to rate the car’s autonomous behavior, training it to your personal tastes. While autonomous cars do tend to err on the side of caution, most companies building autonomous cars have discovered that they’ve had to make their cars behave more aggressively in the real world than first thought in order to better fit in on the roads. In Bosch’s vision however, sliders appear on the car’s touch-screen display after an overtaking or lane-change maneuver has been executed, allowing drivers to ‘rate’ the car on its performance.
Like your car to take a little longer to overtake? Want it to give more space to the car in front? That can all be learned, putting the driver at ease and presumably avoiding the back-seat driver syndrome that we all invariably have to some degree or another when sitting in a car that we’re not driving.
Just a demonstration?
In its video, Bosch underlines the fact that the Tesla Model S used in the video is a concept vehicle and not in series production. It also digitally wipes the large Tesla logo from the steering wheel and replaces Tesla’s existing displays with its own.
It’s likely then that Tesla isn’t working alongside Bosch on this particular project.
But with Tesla promising a complete revamp to its on-board operating system for later this year — primarily to introduce some basic autonomous driving features and facilitate interaction between the driver and the car in order to use them in a logical way — we’re curious to see just how much of Bosch’s vision is replicated by Tesla’s own in-house systems.
What would you like your autonomous car of the future to do? And how would you like to interact with it?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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