Bosch Teams Up with Forcera to Warn Driverless Cars If Weather Affects Road Conditions

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【Summary】Bosch is addressing a real problem for autonomous cars, by alerting the vehicle itself, as well as other nearby autonomous vehicles, to weather hazards such as ice, which might affect a vehicle’s handling. With this data, adjustments can be made to autonomous driving systems.

Eric Walz    Sep 05, 2018 1:26 PM PT
Bosch Teams Up with Forcera to Warn Driverless Cars If Weather Affects Road Conditions

Driving on water and snow can be hazardous at times. Many drivers have experienced hydroplaning or the sudden loss of traction in inclement weather such as rain, snow and ice. The situation can be scary, especially when other cars are nearby. But what about driverless cars? These vehicle will encounter the same weather hazards as a human driver.

Humans have developing a feeling for and experience driving in changing weather conditions, which helps them learn to handle their cars appropriately and safely. However, driverless cars do not have systems in place to react to such conditions and global auto parts supplier Bosch is working to provide it with a new partnership with Finnish weather provider Foreca.

The company is addressing this problem for autonomous cars, by alerting the vehicle itself, as well as other nearby autonomous vehicles, to weather hazards such as ice, which might affect a vehicle's handling.

Bosch has developed a system that gives automated vehicles what it calls a ‘seat-of-the-pants feel'. Professional race drivers commonly refer to this as how a car is handling on the track. They mean the contact between the seat of their pants and their driving seat, which allows them to feel the state of the road surface and how the car reacts to it.

"Wet roads, snow, ice – with our predictive road-condition services, we alert to hazards before critical situations can develop. We are helped here by the weather data provided by our partner Foreca. This means an automated vehicle will know exactly where it can drive autonomously, and how," says the Bosch management board member Dr. Dirk Hoheisel.

Armed with this data, adjustments can be made to Bosch's autonomous driving systems. The company believes the more precisely hazardous conditions can be predicted and localized, the easier it will be to keep the autonomous driving systems operating smoothly and more safely.

All the way up to level-4 autonomy, the decision as to whether a car can safely assume the task of automated driving depends on factors such as road type, speed, and environmental conditions. In future automated vehicles, this decision will also be based on the predictive road-condition services provided by Bosch.

Foreca is one of the world's leading providers of weather information, with two decades of experience in predicting road weather conditions. Bosch's says that the Finnish weather experts provide the most accurate road-weather data provider globally.

"Combining the expertise of Foreca and Bosch will lead to a new era of road-condition forecasting. Unlike weather forecasts in the media, the Bosch road-condition services take multiple possible forecast scenarios into consideration," says Petri Marjava, Foreca's sales director.

The Bosch services package is to be rolled out worldwide in 2020, initially on the basis of weather data. As more and more connected cars appear on the roads, the service will be augmented by a growing amount of vehicle data.

This means a self-driving vehicle will have plenty of time to adapt its driving style, instead of relying on a human driver to take over at the first sign of impaired road conditions.

For example, if the vehicle's route includes driving through rain, the vehicle will decrease its speed well in advance to a level that reduces the risk of hydroplaning and allows it to stop safely at any time. The result is a safer ride that is smooth and comfortable for passengers.

Connected Cars: Predicting Road Conditions Using Vehicle Data

For the predictive road-condition services, Bosch is relying on a multiphase concept of adding connected car data. This additional part of the service is expected to rollout by 2020. However, Bosch realizes that there may not be enough connected cars on the road by then to gather sufficient data.

Bosch estimates it would take some 20 million connected cars to cover the roughly 80,000 kilometers of freeway in Europe alone. So road-weather forecasts will initially be the only reliable source of information about road conditions, especially in rural areas where there is less traffic.

As the number of connected vehicles on the roads increases, Bosch will supplement its predictive road-condition services with vehicle data gathered from them. This data will include detailed information retrieved from a vehicle's CAN bus network, the vehicle's central data network. Some examples include outside temperatures, speed, or if the windshield wipers or headlights are in use.

This data will be uploaded to the Bosch cloud via the respective automaker's back-end server. In addition, Bosch will evaluate the regular interventions by each vehicle's electronic stability control (ESC). Using mathematical methods, engineers can measure the friction coefficient of the road surface at each individual wheel, as well as the status of each wheel.

When all of this data are combined and evaluated, it can lead to safer driving, by sharing how each vehicle reacts to hazardous conditions. With this vehicle data, adjustments can be made to a vehicle's controls beforehand, reducing the risks of hazardous, weather related road conditions.

With this new collaboration, the two companies hope to achieve the safety standard required for life-critical systems such as autonomous driving.

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