Daimler, Bosch to intro driverless ride-hailing in California in 2019, select Nvidia for AI
Bosch and Daimler will test a fleet of autonomous vehicles in California, with a view to launching a driverless shuttle service on certain routes in the second half of 2019. The pair have selected US tech company Nvidia to provide the artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to udnerpin their new autonomous driving system.
The precise location for the trial and launch has not been reveleaed, but the German car maker has had a permit to test autonomous vehicles in the city of Sunnyvale, in California, since 2014.
Nvidia will provide the platform for the control unit network they are developing to power driverless cars. Nvidia’s Drive Pegasus platform will run AI algorithms generated by Bosch and Daimler, to guide the vehicle’s movements and responses.
The control unit network, which collates data from driving sensors inside and outside the vehicle, will reach a computing capacity of hundreds of trillion operations per second, they said, akin to the performance delivered by at least six “synchronised, highly advanced desk-side” computer workstations. Bosch and Daimler will tap Nvidia’s expertise to help develop the platform.
The driving system will gather and process data in milliseconds, from driving sensors attached by technologies including radar, video, lidar and ultrasound.
The control unit network will also be used in the fleet vehicles Daimler and Bosch put on the roads of California in the second half of 2019. Both partners will offer customers an automated shuttle service on select routes in “a city located in the San Francisco Bay” in Silicon Valley.
The test operation will provide information about how fully-automated and driverless vehicles can be integrated into a multi-modal transport network. Many cities face numerous challenges that are increasingly burdening the existing transport system. The test is to show how this new technology might be a solution to these challenges.
Michael Hafner, head of automated driving at Daimler, said: “The decisive factor is to introduce a safe, dependable and mature system. Safety has the highest priority, and is the constant theme of all aspects and development stages on our way to the start of series production. If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed.”
Stephan Hönle, senior vice president for Bosch’s automated driving unit, commented: “Developing automated driving to a level ready for series production is like a decathlon. It’s not enough to be good in one or two areas. Like us, you have to master all disciplines. Only then will we succeed in bringing automated driving to the roads and the city safely.”
Bosch and Daimler aim to improve the flow of traffic in cities, enhance safety on the road and provide an important building block for the way traffic will work in the future. The pilot will showcase car sharing, ride-hailing and multi-modal platforms, they said. Daimler already offers car2go, mytaxi, and moovel services in each category.
Bosch and Daimler joined forces a year ago, working in the greater Stuttgart area and in Silicon Valley, in an effort to put automated and driverless vehicles on city streets. This pair are developing an autonomous driving system for mass production by the beginning of the next decade.
The two companies’ personnel are co-located, working “practically at adjacent desks,” they said. The office sharing in Stuttgart and Silicon Valley ensures rapid communication and decision-making, and greater access to information, they said.
The partners are financing the work equally, to develop concepts and algorithms for a “fully-automated, driverless drive” system. Daimler, tasked with bringing the drive system into the car, is providing the development vehicles and test facilities. Bosch is responsible for the components, including the sensors, actuators and control units.
Mercedes-Benz has had approval to test automated vehicles in the Sunnyvale / California region in the US since 2014, and in the Sindelfingen / Böblingen region in Germany since 2016. Bosch was the world’s first automotive supplier to test automated driving on public roads in Germany and in the US in early 2013.
Meanwhile, Daimler confirmed an extension of its joint research centre for sustainable transportation at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and said it is the first company to receive a licence to road test autonomous cars in the Chinese capital. The new Beijing trials were described as “not one of the easiest challenges, but a good test” for the brand, by Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche, speaking at the RISE tech conference in Hong Kong last week.
Zetsche told the RISE conference usage of AI is evident in the learning capability of Daimler’s multimedia system in its new A-Class line already. “China is the biggest market for us. And when we go for autonomous driving, we have to make sure that it works in China. Therefore this testing is extremely precious for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang signed an agreement last week for further intensification of the research cooperation in the fields of automated driving and intelligent mobility, as part of an industrial charm offensive and strategy alignment by the two governments.
Merkel and Li watched a Daimler autonomous driving demo on the tarmac at Tempelhof airport, to promote cooperation between German automobile manufacturers and their Chinese partners. A Mercedes E-Class was steered under computer control along various pre-programmed trajectories; acceleration and braking were also controlled by a computer.
The deal with Tsinghua University has seen deployment of a Daimler S-Class test platform for multimodal recording and data collation of traffic scenes using camera and lidar technology.
Ola Källenius, a member of the board at Daimler, said: “Automated and autonomous vehicles need international learning material from actual road traffic in order to understand traffic situations and be prepared for different scenarios. The approval obtained only a few days ago to operate fully-automated test vehicles on public roads in Peking provides us with another valuable opportunity to drive our development work in this field forward.”
Meanwhile, German manufacturing giant Siemens last week announced a deal with the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City Investment and Development Company, a 50/50 joint venture between Asian smart city solutions provider Ascendas-Singbridge and the Guangzhou Development District in China, to deploy and enhance its smart-city technology.
It also confirmed it working with Chinese firm Alibaba to “foster” the industrial ‘internet of things’ (IIoT) market in China.