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Japan test bed as Bosch looks to develop left lane automated driving

Japan test bed as Bosch looks to develop left lane automated driving

GERMAN electronics company Bosch is taking autonomous driving to the next level.

All autonomous driving tests have been for countries driving on the right but Bosch has begun on-road testing of autonomous driving in Japan, its third location for the development work after Germany and the US.

“Because people there drive on the left, and because of the complex traffic conditions, Japan provides us with valuable insights for development,” says Dr Dirk Hoheisel, member of the board of management of Bosch.

Bosch’s initial goal is the development of the highway pilot, which will allow cars to drive autonomously on freeways and freeway-like roads starting in 2020.

Like their colleagues in Germany and the US, the team in Japan is already conducting tests with automated test vehicles on public roads.

The test drives are being conducted on expressways around the cities of Tohoku and Tomei in the Tochigi and Kanagawa prefectures, as well as on the two Bosch proving grounds in Shiobara and Memanbetsu.

The new team in Japan is benefiting from the findings of their colleagues in Germany and the US, who have been working on automated driving since 2011. Since early 2013, Bosch has been operating test vehicles on the A81 freeway in Germany and Interstate 280 in the United States.

The teams have now completed more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of test drives without an accident, Hoheisel said.

The Bosch test vehicles guide themselves through traffic, accelerating, braking, and overtaking as necessary. They also decide for themselves, and depending on the traffic situation, when to activate the turn signal and change lanes.

The basis for all this is sensors that provide a detailed picture of the vehicle’s surroundings, plus highly accurate map data from BMW partner TomTom. A computer uses this data to analyse and predict the behavior of other road users, and on that basis makes decisions about the automated vehicles’ driving strategy.

Meanwhile authorities in the US, Japan and Germany are working on the legal framework required to make automated driving a reality in production vehicles, and not just in prototypes.

There are signs of impending change in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which Germany has also ratified.

Amendments to the convention will come into force this April. The member states will then have to transfer these amendments into national law. They allow automated driving so long as the driver is able to override or disable it.

In the sphere of vehicle registration law, an informal working group of UNECE (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) has also begun looking at Regulation R.79, which only allows automatic intervention in steering up to a limit of 10 km/h.

The validation of automated driving functions is another challenge. Using current methods, a highway self-driving car has to complete several million kilometers’ worth of testing before it can be released for production. Bosch is now working on entirely new approaches.

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