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#AutonomousEverything

Collecting Data on the Road

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Tags: ZeroAccidents, AutonomousDriving, Connectivity, Safety

ZF is collecting data for automated driving along a test route in Friedrichshafen – a lot of data.
Stefan Schrahe, February 26, 2019
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Stefan Schrahe has been writing about everything four-wheeled for three decades now. In his leisure time, he enjoys traveling by bike - though he also prefers motorized ones.
Whether in the lab or at the test track, automated vehicles are capable of impressive performance. But to be suitable for unlimited everyday use on the road, they must continue to learn – in everyday traffic. The city of Friedrichshafen has therefore established a dedicated test route for automated technologies. Engineers can conduct road tests along this route under real conditions and collect important data.

Critical situation as a stroke of luck

Critical situation as a stroke of luck

Momcilo Karanovic bravely hits the brakes of his unassuming Opel Astra. A red Skoda pulling out of a parking place at a fast food restaurant turned onto Ehlersstraße, initially stopped at the exit only to pull out abruptly. Without the braking maneuver, there might have been a collision. Karanovic, a test engineer at ZF, was not angry at the careless driver. For him, the situation is more a stroke of luck. That’s because his Opel Astra is not a normal vehicle, but is equipped with the high-performance ZF Pro AI control unit, highly complex sensors, cameras, lidar systems and data recording devices. As soon as the ZF engineer has completed the test route, he will look at the computer to see how the test car systems handled the tricky situation.

Algorithms need training too

Algorithms need training too

In the race toward autonomous driving, those in the lead are the ones whose technologies can be tested in real traffic situations. “The vehicle’s algorithms must be trained,” explains Gerhard Gumpoltsberger, head of Innovation Management & Projects at ZF. “We find everything we need on the streets: cyclists, pedestrians, animals, bicycle paths, roundabouts – sometimes a tractor is on the road, sometimes a delivery truck.” The test cars on the roads in Friedrichshafen are registered as normal cars and are operated by an experienced test engineer. They collect data primarily from such critical situations, for example, like the one experienced by Momcilo Karanovic at the fast food restaurant. The data help engineers to create simulations that advance progress during the development phase because they are continually testing new situations around the clock – seven days a week. The vehicles are therefore trained to also handle complex traffic situations.
“The vehicle’s algorithms must be trained under real conditions.”
— Gerhard Gumpoltsberger, head of Innovation Projects at ZF

5.5 kilometer test route and pedestrian zone

5.5 kilometer test route and pedestrian zone

Test drivers will initially use a basic 5.5 kilometer test route in Friedrichshafen that features different types of roads, including a main road and speed zones of 50 km/h and 30 km/h. Later on, the autonomous test vehicles will also face special complex challenges, such as roundabouts, multiple-lane turns or unmarked roads. At the beginning of 2019, the pedestrian zone was added to the test route.

“Roadside units” for traffic lights

“Roadside units” for traffic lights

In order to make orientation easier for driverless cars, selected streets will be equipped with support technology. In the first development phase, a total of nine traffic lights in Friedrichshafen will communicate with the test cars via “roadside units” to indicate whether they are red or green. In addition, the traffic computer at the control center has been given greater computing power to monitor the lighting technology and to manage data.

Smooth transition

Smooth transition

The transition to true autonomous vehicle testing will then become smooth. Gumpoltsberger: “We feed the computer, which controls the vehicle’s autonomous functions, with data from the simulation. Then we release the individual functions and check how good the reactions are. This approach will gradually bring us closer to complete autonomous driving.”
Though it will still be quite a while before truly autonomous vehicles – which, incidentally, will be hard to recognize as such – will be on the roads in Friedrichshafen. Later on, other areas of the city center will also be included and the vehicles will be driven through residential areas, pedestrian areas as well as – the ultimate challenge –city parking garages. Access to these areas will be regulated by the local communities and it must be individually requested for every city. A corresponding cooperation with the city of Friedrichshafen was approved at the end of 2018. By the end of this year, plans are underway to deploy the first people mover on the road. Together with the start-up e.Go, ZF will launch the e.GO Mover on the market. A vehicle equipped with a sensor set will initially be deployed. Because safety is the main priority in mixed vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, a driver will sit behind the wheel in every test vehicle. Collecting data will also be the goal. The more data that is collected and analyzed, the safer the vehicles will be.
For more information on the current status of the cooperation, please visit this Homepage .

Establishing the developer team

Establishing the developer team

The test route in Friedrichshafen proves that ZF intends to continue to play a leading role in the development of technologies that support autonomous driving and bundle development expertise at the location. “For us, it is important to have test opportunities for automated driving functions here at our main development location for highly automated and autonomous driving,” explains Torsten Gollewski, head of the Autonomous Driving System House and head of the ZF subsidiary “Zukunft Ventures GmbH,” in which ZF pools its start-up investments in the autonomous driving sector. Gollewski: “We are working relentlessly to build up a developer team – and this is where the opportunities to test vehicles under real traffic conditions will be of greater significance and lead to jobs that are secure for the future.”
At some point, Momcilo Karanovic will again drive by the fast-food restaurant on Ehlersstraße. And maybe this time it will not be a red Skoda, but rather a blue Mazda whose driver decides at the last minute to accelerate. The test engineer is looking forward to it: “When we do not have to intervene in autonomous mode, rather the car itself selects the appropriate strategy, then we will have made a decisive step forward with the aid of our test route.”

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