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Helping automated vehicles 'feel' the road

25 July 2018

Bosch has announced a partnership with global weather information provider Foreca, which will deliver road condition prediction services for automated vehicles.

The new services will help automated vehicles emulate the ‘feel’ of the road sensation that drivers use when behind the wheel, allowing vehicles to adapt driving style and decision-making in anticipation of hazards. Road weather forecasts are currently the most reliable source of information about road traffic conditions, and the best way to improve safety and comfort in automated vehicles.

Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, Bosch management board member said: “Wet roads, snow, ice – with our predictive road condition services, we can alert to hazards before critical situations develop, thanks to the weather data provided by our partner Foreca. This means an automated vehicle will know exactly where it can drive in automated mode, and how.”

The Bosch services package will be rolled out worldwide in 2020 drawing on weather data at the first stage. As more connected vehicles appear on the roads the service will also make use of the data collected by these vehicles, allowing increasingly more precise decisions to be made.

Automated vehicles adjust their speed in good time

In SAE level 4 vehicles decisions regarding the degree of automation are currently made based on factors such as road type, speed range and environmental conditions. In the future this decision will also be based on the predictive road-condition services provided by Bosch.
By providing advance intelligence on the expected environmental conditions, the vehicle will have more time to adapt its driving style, instead of having to hand over the driving task to the driver at the first sign of impaired road conditions.

For example, if the vehicle’s route takes it through rain, it will adapt its speed well in advance to a level that excludes any risk of aquaplaning and allows it to stop safely at any time. Whatever the SAE automation level, the result is a safe drive that is also smooth and comfortable.

Reliable road condition information improves safety

Foreca is one of the world’s leading providers of weather information, with two decades of experience in predicting road weather conditions. It will provide constantly updated global road-weather data to make the service reliable.

Thanks to a worldwide reference measuring fleet and machine learning methods, Bosch and Foreca have jointly been able to optimise the availability of road-weather models. The more precisely hazardous conditions can be predicted and localised, the easier it will be to keep the availability of automated driving functions to a maximum. In this way, the two companies have achieved a safety standard that will be necessary for life-critical systems such as automated driving.

Petri Marjava, Foreca’s sales director, said: “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.”

Vehicle intelligence improves with wider adoption

In the long-term, Bosch will supplement its predictive road-condition services with real-world vehicle data. However, Bosch estimates it would take some 20 million connected cars to cover the roughly 80,000 kilometres of motorway in Europe alone. This means that until automated vehicles are more widely adopted, road-weather forecasts will be the most and only reliable source of information about road conditions. This is especially true in rural areas where there is less traffic.

This system will use live data from vehicles, including information stored on the CAN bus, the vehicle’s central data network, such as the temperatures measured inside and outside the vehicle, and even details such as whether the windscreen wipers are in use. The data will be uploaded to the Bosch cloud via the respective car manufacturer’s back-end server, and in turn used for road condition mapping. For example, Bosch will evaluate details like the ESP anti-skid system interventions, which engineers can use to measure and intelligently evaluate the friction coefficient of the road surface at each individual wheel, as well as the status of each wheel.

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