Cars should be completely driverless

Driverless car: How far is autonomous driving?

Braunschweig (dpa) - The cars of the future should not only be cleaner, but also, if possible, safer and more efficient. Automated and networked driving plays a key role in this.

This is no longer a utopia. The 14th test track was officially opened in Lower Saxony on Wednesday. However, it is still far away that autonomous cars, buses and taxis will chauffeur us.

How far is autonomous driving?

There are successes in research and development. Self-driving cars with technology from Bosch and Daimler are already being tested in the USA. The two companies have been testing a ride-sharing service there since the end of last year. Toyota has just announced plans to build an experimental city of the future in Japan to test technologies such as autonomous driving more intensively in real environments. However, the ADAC expects that a larger number of cars will only be offered after 2040 that come completely autonomously from door to door, i.e. no longer require a driver on country roads.

Where is the development?

Much is currently revolving around the preliminary stages to autonomous driving. The levels are often described in the order of assisted, partially automated, highly automated and fully automated driving. In the first two levels, the driver is in constant control of his car; only on the third level can he temporarily turn away from the driving task and traffic. Only at the next level can the driver completely surrender control of the vehicle and become a passenger. According to ADAC, assisted driving functions are currently the state of the art. Automated driving will only slowly gain acceptance.

What happens on test tracks?

With a new test field in Lower Saxony, there are now 14 test tracks for networked and automated vehicles in Germany. Corresponding systems are being researched and developed on the A9 motorway digital test field in Bavaria, for example. In Hamburg, a test track project plans to equip traffic lights and a bridge so that they can send information to vehicles. In Berlin's city traffic, a 3.6-kilometer route between the Brandenburg Gate and Ernst-Reuter-Platz was equipped with technology. In the future, there will also be test cars on the road that are driven by computers and in which a person only sits to check. In Lower Saxony, scientists will in future be taking a closer look at special situations such as traffic jams, threading-in situations and overtaking maneuvers. At the opening, the state's transport minister, Bernd Althusmann (CDU), announced that the state wanted to take over responsibility for all test fields in Germany.

What are the problems?

Above all, legal aspects need to be clarified. For example, the ADAC demands that the systems must be at least as secure as an average driver. Debates among auto insurers and ethicists who analyze accident decisions have only just begun. Then there is the difference between town and country. For example, a model project that is currently being tested in Osnabrück has been stopped in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for the time being because the technology does not work in the country. In Osnabrück, the municipal utilities are testing a small, autonomously driving bus called Hubi, which travels with passengers on public roads. The vehicle uses a sensor system that needs buildings to “scan” the roadside. This means that this technology can only be used in urban areas in towns and villages, it was said to justify the demolition in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.


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