Things can get a tad repetitive here at CES, particularly when you’re tasked with anything to do with cars. There are literally two topics, autonomous driving and electric cars. But it’s good to come back and see some real advancement when it comes to a story you covered at the same time last year.
ZF is one of the leading automotive parts suppliers in the world, it especially excels at driveline and chassis products. Last year I told you about a product called ZF ProAl, a simple box with supercomputer levels of artificial intelligence (AI) built into it. The point of this product was to essentially have a kind of “plug and play” function that could be fitted to all cars, injecting very high levels of autonomous driving into them. AI will allow cars to “deep think” which is handy if carmakers want to have us being whisked around in the wild with no steering wheel.
Here at CES in Las Vegas, ZF in conjunction with NVIDA, has showcased an actual car that is said to be enabled with level four, fully automated driving. That’s just one level off the holy grail of level five. The Opel vehicle, known as the ProAI Dream Car, has been “trained” by ZF engineers to perform different driving functions.
Special attention has been given to critical situations such as environments that include interaction with pedestrians and pedestrian groups at crosswalks, collision estimation, behaviour at traffic lights and roundabouts. “In contrast to a trip on a freeway or rural road, it is significantly more complex in urban scenarios to create a reliable understanding of the current traffic situation, which provides the basis for appropriate actions of a computer-controlled vehicle,” says Torsten Gollewski, head of Advanced Engineering at ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
In conjunction with the ProAI box, the usual cameras, LIDAR and radar sensors are installed in the current vehicle being used. So ultimately ZF has gone from building an extremely powerful chip last year to implementing it into a normal everyday car. But how will it perform in the real world? Only time will tell.