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‘Fully driverless cars will not come before 2025’

| | Updated on: Oct 08, 2015
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Bosch EVP discusses the likely scenario ahead

Driverless cars are the latest mantra in the auto industry, with every manufacturer, including Apple and Google, in the race to launch them. Hans-Peter Hübner, Executive Vice President, Chassis Systems Control, Robert Bosch GmbH, shares his insights on the challenges associated with the development of the car and challenges ahead. Excerpts:

With carmakers and technology companies like Apple and Google working on driverless cars, who is likely to launch the first product?

This is a difficult question and I do not want to answer it as some (manufacturers) may not like it if we comment on the issue. All are working hard at it, whether it is BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz. It depends on the philosophy of the carmaker or steps they are taking, as each one’s approach would be different from the other.  

Yet, it is for the first time that carmakers are competing with technology companies.

Carmakers have the experience of building cars for a long time and are aware of the dynamics and risks. Tech companies are coming from the software side with big data management. I would not be able to tell you who will be more successful as of now. Technology companies will need to know how to build cars while carmakers will need data to develop the car.

Are automated cars a step away from building driverless cars?

It actually depends on how you define it, as highly automated can mean driverless as well.

Automated cars will still depend on people to steer them, while driverless cars are on their own.

Highly automated cars will not need drivers to supervise anything unless there is some disturbance or problem, which is when he takes over. Let us assume the system fails, this is when the driver will have to get back to his seat within 10 seconds and steer the car. If he sleeps, then it would not be of any help. However, Google cars do not have a steering wheel while you sit on the driver’s seat.

When do you think the first driverless car will hit the road?

Fully driverless cars will not come before 2025. There are lots of steps in between and partially automated is perhaps the second step towards that goal. On a highway, it may be possible to have them out by 2020 but on city roads, where there is lot of traffic, it may be much later.

Google has said that driverless cars are much safer than those driven by human beings. Do you agree?

Yes, I do because 92 per cent of fatal accidents occur due to a fault by the driver. A machine does not make so many mistakes but this can still throw up several ethical issues. If a person is doing it, we attribute it to human error but will not accept it if the machine makes a mistake.

How expensive would driverless cars be?

This is for the manufacturers to decide but they will certainly be costlier because of the need for additional redundancies. However, they will become affordable with more volumes.

Can driverless cars communicate with other cars especially in heavy traffic or an accident?

Automated cars will be able to communicate only with their type of cars while people-driven cars will not be able to talk to driverless cars. In future, this may perhaps be possible with more electronics on board. For that, you need a bigger bandwidth and if they are fast enough, they will be able to do so. A car involved in an accident can communicate with another if the required bandwidth is there.

Will insurance companies charge less for driverless cars as they are safer?

Big insurance companies are already discussing this issue. Cars with some system on board to prevent accidents may attract lesser premium but eventually governments and insurance companies have to find a way out. 

How about the coexistence of driverless cars and those driven by people?

They will have to coexist since driverless cars cannot be introduced otherwise. You will not be able to change all the cars at once. Not everyone can afford a driverless car either. Coexistence is a must for future development.

How big is the market for automated cars?

Bosch has driver assisted systems which are partially automated. The turnover is as high as a billion euros. This market is growing by 30 per cent and is a step closer to driverless cars.


Published on January 22, 2018

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