Bosch plays a big part in the supply and technology chain behind today's cars, and it's aiming to play an even bigger part in the self-driving cars of tomorrow. The company has just laid out some of its plans for the autonomous future.
From today's ABS systems and spark plugs to tomorrow's electric powertrains, 36-degree sensor suites and onboard computers, Bosch is well positioned to be a big player in vehicle hardware moving into the future. And the company has released details of a concept it'll be showing at CES to demonstrate some of its capabilities in that area.
The concept is an electric four-seater, arranged with a spacious interior that sees the passengers all facing one another, with tablet-like infotainment screens extending from the walls that Bosch believes might end up being collaborative work tools. There's on-board Wi-Fi, as well as a concierge service that can provide weather and travel information, and make bookings.
Camera systems warn passengers if they've left a handbag or phone behind, and can tell the difference between such items and trash or spills that might indicate the vehicle needs cleaning.
But Bosch's ambitions are bigger than just hardware – it's also working on a dizzying array of digital systems.
"In the future, every vehicle on the road will make use of Bosch digital services," says Dr. Markus Heyn, on the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH. Here's a peek at what's in the pipeline:
The Perfectly Keyless digital access service uses customers' smartphones as their unique keys to get in the vehicle.
- The Convenience Charging service tracks these electric vehicles' states of charge, and combines them with weather and traffic data and information on how much power on-board systems like air-con are consuming to manage the process of deciding when and where to dip out of service for a charge-up. The system "pre-books" spaces at the most appropriate charging station so there's no double-ups.
- Predictive road condition services let vehicles know when there might be a diesel spill or gravel patch ahead.
- The Bosch Road Signature is effectively a more accurate version of GPS that lets autonomous vehicles know and broadcast their positions to within a few centimeters.
- Predictive diagnostics systems keep an eye on key components in the vehicle, attempting to notify home base before a fault develops and leaves passengers stranded.
There's also an over-the-air software update system, and a connectivity platform that draws all sorts of systems together to give fleet managers and shuttle service operators, as well as vehicle manufacturers, live information about what their fleet is up to, along with information on individual vehicles. Bosch has even spun out a subsidiary called Escript to concentrate on information security for these highly connected vehicles.
Bosch is predicting large fleets of fully autonomous shuttle-style taxis will be on the road "by the middle of the next decade at the latest," and we've already spent plenty of time examining what that kind of vehicular revolution will mean to the automotive market, the transport mix as a whole and the shape of our cities in the future.
It's interesting to see a company like Bosch working effectively behind the scenes to build the components and systems that will underpin these kinds of services.
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