26 Jan 22

Volkswagen and Bosch team up to develop self-driving software

Having recently announced a partnership to develop EV batteries, Volkswagen (VW) and Bosch have solidified their alliance further by promoting a new collaboration on self-driving technologies. 

The deep dive of VW and Bosch into automotive technologies reflects the German giant's ambition to become a major player in EV hardware and software, directly challenging Tesla and other rivals in this area. 

The CEO of Bosch’s software unit Cariad, Dirk Hilgenberg, believes that it wouldn’t take too much time to catch up with Tesla. “Tesla, of course, has a million vehicles on the road, and those cars seem greater every day - with the cooperation we are now setting up, I think we can gain speed significantly.”

The technology

The VW-Bosch project will gather real-time traffic data from millions of connected vehicles, analyse it and then utilise artificial intelligence (AI) for the software development process to deliver L2 and L3 hands-free driving systems for defined spaces, such as urban environments and freeways. The details are:

  • Level 2 partial automation tech will require drivers to have their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road. 
  • Level 3 will allow drivers to let their hands go free and look somewhere else, only to retake control in 10 seconds when necessary. 
  • The L2 and L3 software updates will happen Over-the-Air (OTA)

Using high definition maps, VW and Bosch want to improve the vehicle’s localisation, offering a better scan of the surrounding environment and changing terrains in long-range, thus outplaying Tesla in that respect. 

The eyes-on capability, which requires full drive supervision, is expected to be released in 2023. A release date for the eyes-off technology is not yet disclosed. The eyes-on and eyes-off systems will be designed for consumer vehicles rather than fleets. 

VW and Bosch also revealed their plan to continue with Level 4 full self-driving in the future. 

The ‘eyes-off’ competition 

Auto giants and tech companies are joining forces worldwide to gear up for the upcoming battle in the autonomous driving industry. Below are just a few examples: 

  • Ford and Lyft are working to provide autonomous vehicle services in the US, 
  • Waymo and Geely teamed up to build EV robotaxis, 
  • Google invested in driverless delivery services provider Nuro
  • Mercedes partnered with Luminar to develop self-driving technologies,
  • GM joined forces with Qualcomm to equip its future cars with hands-free technology. 

In Germany, VW couldn’t release the L3 system developed for the A8 in 2018 due to a lack of regulations. However, the attention has increased as Mercedes-Benz has gained regulatory support to deploy L3 systems in 2021. Currently, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS are the only cars having L3 autonomous driving capabilities, in compliance with UNECE regulations. BMW also ambitions to release L3 autonomous tech in Germany in 2022 in the new 7 series. 

The interaction in the autonomous driving industry and the willingness of the German automakers gives a clear sign for fierce competition, which will soon be stretching up to Level 4 autonomy. 

The investment 

The combined effort to develop self-driving technologies will gather over 1,000 engineers from Bosch’s Cross-Domain Computing Solutions and Cariad divisions.

VW announced a massive €89 billion investment in electric mobility in December 2021, including software development for the following five years. VW also invested $2.6 million in the autonomous driving technology provider Argo AI. 

VW Chief Financial Officer Arno Antlitz sees the partnership as a means of accessing the “new revenue pool software.” “The components of the developed software can also be used for vehicles and ecosystems of other automakers in the future,” he says. 

Image: Cariad

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen