Autonomous Driving: Pole Position for Austria
This already begins with driver assistance systems, intelligent headlights, reliable engine control systems. Many of these little helpers were developed here in Austria. For example, the 3D camera with a built-in image sensor chip to prevent momentary nodding off and radar sensors which monitor blind spots originated in the Austrian research facilities of Infineon. Using internal Ethernet communication and the corresponding platform, TTTech in Vienna also created the nervous system and brain for driving assistance systems. This serves as the basis for linking the individual systems and collectively evaluating data and processes.
The numerous helpers integrated into vehicles are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Thus autonomous driving is getting closer and closer to become a reality. However, a number of obstacles have to be overcome before it is possible to achieve the objective of full automation enabling vehicles to act autonomously under all conditions. It is necessary to have perfectly functioning sensor technology and precise positioning to ensure completely driverless motion. GPS is simply far too imprecise for autonomous driving. The complexity of road traffic and the interaction of conventional and autonomously driven vehicles also have to be taken into consideration. Finally, data protection and the ability to repel unauthorized access from the outside such as cyberattacks will also play a role in the effectiveness of these systems.
Autonomy in red-white-red
Many of these challenges are addressed in Austria in a targeted manner. Extensive research funding and promotion measures such as the research tax credit make a perceptible contribution in this regard. Accordingly, research and development expenditures per employee in the Austrian automotive industry amount to EUR 21,500. More than 800 start-ups and companies intensively focus on mobility of the future in addition to the work being done by research institutions and clusters. For example, the development of precise sensors for distance and speed measurement is the priority of LiDcAR, a project involving the Vienna University of Technology, TTTech and Infineon, amongst other participants. Within the context of the research project called “Dynamic Ground Truth“, a highly precise measuring system is being developed to enable a reliable recognition and analysis of the environment.
Naturally such technologies have to be subject to extensive testing. The ideal conditions for this also exist in Austria. The ALP.Lab comprises the most multi-faceted testing environment for autonomous driving in Europe. All the particular characteristics of an Alpine driving environment can be tested based on partial winter road conditions as well as toll booths and tunnels. In addition to the simulation area, ALP.Lab also offers special test tracks on public roads and highways. However, Austrian testing laboratories for automated driving not only benefit from local conditions but also from funding provided by the Austrian federal government and the expertise and commitment of companies and research facilities based here. For example, Magna, AVL List, the Graz University of Technology, Virtual Vehicle and the research organization Joanneum Research all belong to the consortium.
Artificial intelligence for the roads
Another important contribution to autonomous driving is being made by Johannes Kepler University of Linz. It founded the “Audi.JKU deep learning center” in cooperation with Audi. Led by Sepp Hochreiter, a leading expert, the center will carry out research on the deployment of artificial intelligence in vehicles.
The question is no longer whether we will enter into the age of mobility, but when. A glimpse into the engine compartment of the Austrian automobile industry shows that Austria is one of the most important driving forces on the path to a new kind of mobility. I am eagerly looking forward to the new era. However, I will continue to enthusiastically drive my car myself until this time comes.