Bosch' contribution to the self-driving-future:
Bosch may well be the biggest name in international engineering and electronics. In 2011 it was measured the world's largest independent parts supplier to the automotive industry in revenue. Core products include brakes, electrical drives, electronics, fuel systems, generators, starter motors and steering systems. The company was founded in 1886 by Robert Bosch and is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
Today Bosch dedicates more than 2,000 engineers to driver-assistance systems, delivering tools like the automatic Park Assist, planning on conquering the autonomous driving market. Bosch ranks second in driverless patents possession, has partnered up with TomTom to perfect high-definition mapping, is building its own ADAS supercomputer and has driverless test projects in three different continents. Not a bad start to building the first Bosch self-driving car.
@ Bosch' Tesla S converted test car
Bosch the parts supplier
In 1886 Robert Bosch invented the low voltage car magneto. In 1926 it started producing windscreen wipers and in 1927 injection pumps. Bosch bought up a big gas appliances production company and in 1932, in the same year, developed its first power drill and presented its first car radio. Also in the 21th century Bosch is trying to stay ahead by investing in areas like biomedical engineering and renewable energy, building new tech like solid state lithium ion batteries and solar cells.
Surfing to Bosch’ website, you are asked to give in your specific car model and an infinite host of spare parts, components and enhancements appears. Even when you are not specifically looking for something, browsing through the catalogue can be an afternoon well spent. It is endless. Bosch spends billions a year investing in research and development coming up with new products. Approximately 3900 patents are published per year. On autonomous driving patents specifically, Bosch is said to be ranked second, behind Toyota, with more than 1,000 driverless tech inventions in the last five years.
Bosch the maps provider
Bosch is moving from parts provider to autonomous driving provider (see next paragraph), but one crucial missing aspect was mapping. High-precision maps are essential for highly automated driving, without it self-driving cars cannot move beyond a few dozen test vehicles to the mainstream, but this was long outside Bosch’ field of expertise. So Bosch decided to acquire the knowledge. As many others in the field were doing (BMW+Mercedes+Volkswagen buying Here, Uber buying deCarta, etc.) it partnered with a high-definition mapping company, TomTom, the second-largest in the world.
Every driverless test car today is using GPS as its main point of positioning. The first Bosch self-driving car included doubtlessly. But the industry is preparing for the next generation Global Positioning System. If it is up to TomTom and Bosch, GPS 2.0 will be a lot faster, will be accurate up to 4 inch (30x more than GPS) and will have multiple layers. An example of that last is that on top of the traditional localization layer there will be room for a layer with attributes such as lane divider types, traffic signs, speed limits, etc. And also one with 3D information about road geometry, including curves and slopes. With the help of this very detailed lane information, the automated vehicle can decide things such as when and how to change lane.
Mid 2016 reports announced that Bosch wanted to secure its mapping position even further by showing interest in buying shares of Here, the number one high-precision maps provider, together with Amazon and Microsoft.
Bosch the driverless car manufacturer
TomTom initially produced high detailed maps of parts of Germany and the United States, where Bosch immediately started testing them on highways, keeping the maps up to date. How? Bosch has its own fleet of driverless test cars in Germany, the U.S. and very soon also in Japan.
Bosch is not only doing this to create better maps. Bosch sold 50 million surround sensors for driverless technologies in 2015 to customers including BMW and has a successful radar and sensor arm which boasts Google and Tesla. We are specifically pointing out these car manufactures not only because their high involvement in the field, but because these are the specific brands Bosch is using in its own autonomous testing. One of Bosch’s first entrants on the scene was a converted BMW 325d with a big Velodyne Lidar on top. In 2015 Bosch bought some Model S Teslas, threw out all Autopilot references and built its own driverless testing vehicles with own sensors and software (see video).
Except for selling separate autonomous parts, Bosch intends to distribute packaged driverless solutions. One of which is already in the pipeline will be called “Automatic Park Assist". It will let you use your smartphone to park your car, something Samsung has briefly shown us in the past. The new technology will guide your car to parking spaces up to 100 meters away and Bosch expects the tech to make a debut in a production car in 2019.