Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Form, Volkswagen

The vision of fully autonomous and fully connected vehicles might not be a vision for so much longer. The pace of development is really speeding up and Prof Dr Thomas Form, Head of Electronics and Vehicle Research at Volkswagen Group, was very kind to give us an introduction of the requirements on next the generation of connected-car platforms.

During his Key Note Address at Vehicle Electronics & Connected Services 2017 Dr Form explained the challenges the automotive industry is facing regarding autonomous drive.

– The challenges are that we must sense the whole environment of the vehicle – 360 degrees around. Then we have to interpret the situation, predict the behavior of other traffic participants, communicate in certain situations and then execute the plan by controlling the stirring, accelerating and breaking systems control. That is what we face from a technical perspective.

Giving that as a fact they are currently looking at two approaches. In the more conventional approach they are focusing on improving systems for driving assistance on highway scenarios. Those systems typically go into the premium segmented cars, going down to mid-size class and then becomes cheaper.

– But If you look into mobility systems where you need the full functionality, like driving a shuttle bus, you only need the functionality on a specific route towards your target. Here you can adapt more easily to special situations which you could encounter during your journey, which is planned ahead.

He also addresses the number of sensors you need to have as a key factor for the next generation of connected cars – for two different reasons.

– You need a lot of sensors and the first reason is technology, because we do not yet have a sensor that could detect everything every ware, every time. The other reason to have a huge number of sensors is about functional safety. Your life depends on the capability of these sensor clusters!

Looking a few years ahead Dr Form predicts that in the segment of private cars we will take small steps, it might begin with sophisticated parking functions and more or less autonomous driving cars on the highway in certain areas and in certain routes. But he believes it will still take time before we have all those functions joined together in urban areas-

– You might come to the conclusion that getting rid of the driver would solve all of our traffic problems. But as an engineer I am quite aware that we will never have a perfect technical system. Unfortunately, there are some limitations so the question will then be: how safe or how good enough should an autonomous vehicle drive?