Q&A: Gerhard Steiger

Bosch's president of chassis systems control discusses the challenges and implications of fully autonomous vehicles and what hurdles are left to overcome

What are the biggest legal challenges to the introduction of autonomous technology?
In both production vehicles and prototypes, automated driving cannot be realised unless the legal conditions are in place. But the amendment of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which has also been ratified by Germany, is a sign that things are beginning to change. According to this amendment, which came into effect in March 2016, automated driving functions are permitted as long as the driver can actively override or disable them. However, there is still no clarity as to what the driver can do once the car has assumed the task of driving. In other words, the mandatory rules for road users still need to be clarified. In the area of rules for type approval, an informal working group from the UNECE (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) is addressing the ECE-R 79 regulation, which currently only allows automatic steering intervention at speeds of up to 10 kilometres per hour. The working group’s initial findings are expected by the middle of next year. The next step will be to broaden the definition of a driver. In the future, automated systems with full control over the vehicle will be put on a par with human drivers. The regulatory framework in the U.S. is quite different from the one in Europe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) passes rules in the form of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. In February 2016, NHTSA announced that it is considering modifying the way it defines a driver, depending on the circumstances: if no human occupant can drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the driver as whatever instead of whoever is actually driving. This is an important change in perspective that might significantly impact further rulemaking in the United States. In addition to federal regulations, several U.S. states have permitted the use of self-driving vehicles in order to promote their development.

What dialogue are you having with the wider industry about overcoming these hurdles?
Bosch is collaborating with automakers, industry associations, institutions, and supranational agencies, and is participating in expert working groups. 

In terms of resistance to autonomous vehicles, what is the biggest concern, and how will you overcome this? 
The first is reliability. Fully automated driving will be accepted when we can guarantee that the technology will work fully reliably. We are working on optimising vehicles’ perception of their environment and the algorithms behind the sensor technology involved. Automated driving will first be introduced for situations that are relatively easy to master, such as parking. The next stage will cover higher speeds and more complex driving situations, such as driving on freeways. Automated driving will arrive step by step. There is also the issue of data security. For Bosch, vehicle security has always been crucial, and it offers a broad portfolio of solutions for automotive security. The multilayer Bosch architecture offers a high level of security at a reasonable cost. Because it comprises security-protection elements at different levels, it makes it very difficult for a potential hacker to capitalise on a single weak spot and launch a serious attack. All external interfaces must be run with secure protocols, which act like firewall filters. For instance, it is a strict requirement that precisely configured gateways separate the ECU domains for the powertrain from the highly interconnected multimedia domain. The gateway performs a “firewall function,” preventing hackers from sending unwanted data packages from one domain to another. The integrity of the communication of safety-critical data between ECUs within a domain – and also between the relevant sensors – must be ensured in the future. And if a hacker should succeed in infiltrating the system with message packages, the system must be capable of recognising and ignoring them. Each individual control device must be secured against manipulation, meaning that their software must be authentic at all times and protected against modification by hackers. In this respect, Bosch security modules provide a hardware solution. They guarantee that the cryptographic keys and procedures are protected. To keep security systems “state of the art” over the vehicle’s lifetime, regular updates (over-the-air) will be necessary.

tags: Bosch autonomous driving Connectivity
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