Mobility of the future: driverless cars

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Many people spend quite a bit of time every week behind the wheel of their car. Imagine what you could get done during those hours! You could write e-mails or read a book – all kinds of things, if only it were not far too dangerous to do so while driving. Modern cars already offer a variety of technical aids to make driving a car less stressful: innovations such as assisted parking, lane departure warning and distance regulation systems have already avoided many accidents.

Driverless cars

making for a stress-free journey for its passengers

Driven forward by advances in digitization, the next development stage is already on the horizon: driverless cars. Inbuilt microelectronic systems will then control the driving processes fully automatically, allowing cars to steer, brake and accelerate themselves. What is more, they will even be able to communicate with their environment. “Digitization is the mega trend of our era and influences all areas of life, including mobility”, says Professor Henning Kagermann, president of Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech).

The driver can sit back and relax

the car of the future will be steered by a computer

It will not be long before drivers will be able to activate the autopilot, sit back and relax: while the on-board computer steers the car to the right motorway exit or navigates its way through the commuter traffic, they will be able to check messages on their smartphones, read e-mails or make phone calls. Cars will even be able to locate the nearest available parking space . These smart, interconnected cars will share data with other vehicles, road signs and traffic lights, as well as with traffic information services or the nearest charging point for electric vehicles.

Benefits of digitally interlinked cars

Traffic experts are confident that digitally interlinked vehicles will ease congestion, as this will allow better coordination of traffic flows. There will be fewer traffic jams, and cars will take up less space on the roads. This will make mobility not only less resource-intensive but also safer, as most road traffic accidents are down to human error.

Scientists in Germany are working flat out to develop the cars and traffic systems of the future. After all, society needs the traffic to flow smoothly. On average, Germans drive roughly 11,000 kilometres per year. Most goods are also transported by road, and these days have to cover longer and longer distances due to the division of labour.

Germany wants to invent the car of the future

The motorized automobile was invented 130 years ago in Stuttgart. With this tradition behind it and its expertise in modern vehicle technology serving as a springboard, Germany now wants to create a smart, networked car. Scientists are approaching the challenge from various perspectives in development laboratories and test centres at universities and research institutions in places such as Braunschweig, Aachen, Karlsruhe, Munich, Kempten and Berlin. They are working

  • on turning semi-automatic driving systems into fully automatic systems,
  • on interlinking cars with their environment by means of artificial intelligence, and are also focusing
  • on the legal and ethical issues which arise when it is no longer the driver of a car but its software that initiates an overtaking manoeuvre or decides when to brake the car.

Numerous German car manufacturers and automotive suppliers such as Daimler and BMW are also working on self-driving cars.

Test tracks for self-driving cars

A test track for self-driving cars is currently being built in Wuppertal in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The first prototypes should already be embarking on their driverless trial laps early this year. The new track will allow the cars to be tested under realistic conditions. It features mock motorway sections as well as city streets – with traffic lights, roundabouts and road signs. The driverless cars will have to register all of this and adapt their driving style accordingly. Similar test tracks are also to be found close to the cities of Ingolstadt and Braunschweig.

 

National Academy of Science and Engineering

The National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) is a scientific academy of technology and applied sciences. It supports policy-makers by providing qualified technical evaluations and recommendations, and represents the interests of the German scientific and technological communities at home and abroad. acatech is involved in various projects dedicated to the mobility of the future.

www.acatech.de > New autoMobility