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Autonomous driving: An overview

What is the state of the art? How is testing carried out? What will the future bring? Everything there is to know about cars and other vehicles that operate on an automated or autonomous basis.

Definition: What is autonomous driving?

Autonomous driving normally refers to self-driving vehicles or transport systems that move without the intervention of a human driver. In 2014, SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers) published the J3016 standard to define the various development levels up to fully autonomous vehicles. The levels for autonomous driving range from Level 0 (no automation) up to Level 5 (full vehicle autonomy).

The five levels of autonomous driving

From assisted to fully automated driving: Getting to the self-driving car in five steps

Since the 1950s, it is not just automotive engineers who have been fascinated by the dream of fully autonomous driving. What stage are we at today? When will it become a reality?

The state of the art

What a self-driving vehicle needs

Advanced sensor technology, smart control systems and intelligent actuators: For everything from automated to autonomous driving, complex technology is in demand. However, it is not just a question of automated vehicles being able to set themselves in motion. In the future, safety will continue to be the top priority, and passenger comfort will become even more important.

Level 2+: Semi-automated Driving for Everyone

Level 2+ semi-automated driving systems can help enhance safety and comfort in passenger cars. With its comprehensive portfolio of intelligent advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), ZF offers solutions scalable to cost and functions desired.

A “supercomputer” – and how things will work

Driverless cars require artificial intelligence and enormous computing power. With ZF ProAI RoboThink, ZF offers the most powerful AI mainframe computer on the automotive market.

Interaction between human and machine

Are you going to drive, or should I? Instead of this being a matter of who will take the car keys, you or your partner, this question is increasingly being asked between human and machine.

Artificial intelligence: What exactly is it?

Artificial intelligence is both a buzzword and trending topic, but what does AI actually mean? What can it achieve today and what will it do in the future?

Sensors: Combined sensor power for autonomous vehicles

Advanced driver assistance systems also need to be able to handle complex traffic situations safely. For the vehicle to function reliably under all lighting and weather conditions, information from the cameras, LIDAR and radar sensors must be intelligently connected and brought into context.

Safety with automated and autonomous vehicles

One thing is certain: New seat positions will only be created for automated and autonomous driving if the occupants continue to be well protected. Systems from ZF will help to achieve this.

The chassis – the key to autonomous driving

Ride comfort, driving behavior and thus the chassis will play a crucial role in the success of autonomous vehicles. Especially passengers who are not actively driving a vehicle themselves prove to be more sensitive to changes in travel comfort.

High-resolution maps

From trees to bridges – for autonomous driving, high-resolution maps must be a meticulous record of the roadscape. But how can an inventory be taken of the features of all road networks worldwide? ZF and the market leaders among map service providers have a plan.

How testing is carried out

Test routes for autonomous vehicles around the globe

Driving is a skill that must be learned – this not only applies to people but is also true for automated and autonomous vehicles. In order to learn and to collect data, many kilometers must be covered on training grounds and on the road.

In all markets: Training camps for autonomous vehicles

Even autonomous cars need to take “Driver’s Ed”. For this purpose, training sites are available worldwide, allowing the algorithms to train in peace and collect data. Then it’s off to the public roads – also initially under test conditions.

Collecting data in everyday traffic

On a test track in Friedrichshafen, ZF collects data for automated driving – a large amount of data.

Autonomous vehicles and transport systems

From robo-taxis to tractors

The trend toward automation is not limited to passenger cars. Companies like ZF have long been working on self-driving people and cargo movers, automated commercial vehicles, intelligent forklift trucks and innovative agricultural machinery.

The Pioneers of People Mover

Mobility provider 2getthere has been building driverless people movers for decades. 2getthere’s founder and CEO Carel van Helsdingen talks about the company’s next big steps and the challenges of developing autonomous shuttles for mixed traffic.

Ride-hailing robo-taxis

Novel urban mobility choices such as ride-hailing are one of the biggest drivers behind the development of autonomous driving. ZF uses a demo vehicle to demonstrate how the company enables novel forms of mobility.

Smart light commercial vehicles as a remedy for traffic congestion

Tomorrow’s urban mobility will rely on new operational concepts and vehicle types, such as the people mover. One of the most advanced projects is the e.Go Mover, in which ZF is significantly involved.

Highly automated commercial vehicles

No matter where you get your news, you’ll hear that people throughout the USA are talking about automated driving in passenger cars. What is less well known is that automated driving is now also playing a decisive role in the area of commercial vehicles.

Truck platooning technology

Traveling in the slipstream of another vehicle takes less power – cyclists have long known that – and this physical law also applies to trucks.

Autonomous package delivery: Satisfaction delivered right to your door

In Germany alone, delivery drivers transport more than ten million packages every day – and the trend is rising. With an interconnected concept vehicle that drives autonomously, ZF shows how package delivery can be handled with less stress for everyone involved.

Smart logistics: As if moved by an invisible hand

Large numbers of autonomous vehicles will soon be on the move without many of us realizing it: trucks that operate without drivers on the premises of depots. Smart logistics solutions such as these are boosting efficiency in the movement of goods.

The forklift truck of the future

With the Innovation Forklift, ZF is teaching industrial trucks to see, think and act for the first time.

In focus: Farming 4.0

ZF takes the benefits of trends of the future, such as electromobility and autonomous driving, and transfers them to innovative prototypes in agricultural machinery.

Criticism, legal & ethical issues

When the computer controls us

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the opportunities that autonomous driving is promising to us. Some are afraid of losing the fun of driving, and others are warning against the threat of hackers or pointing out difficult legal and ethical issues.

Don’t be afraid of losing control

From Frankenstein to the Matrix, literature and movies are packed with conflicts between machines and people. Even surrendering control to an autonomous vehicle would be difficult for most people. However, automation can be associated with many advantages.

One step ahead of the hackers

“I’ve been hacked!” – there are few sentences that can strike as much fear into your heart as this one. As the focus is more and more on phenomena such as identity theft and data privacy breaches, the security requirements for products are also increasing, from smartphones to baby monitors and now vehicles.

Ethical issues surrounding automated driving (ADAC)

The future could belong to autonomous vehicles, but the rapid pace of technological development is also raising ethical questions, such as whether this technology should one day be made mandatory.

What the future holds

New cars – changing requirements

Mobility as a Service, intermodal mobility, ride-hailing robo-taxis: The mobility of the future will evolve rapidly in some areas, bringing to the market new players, but also new opportunities.

How autonomous driving will change the market

New players, new opportunities: The true driving forces behind automated and autonomous driving are actually not the car manufacturers. Far more interest in the technology is being shown by new mobility service providers, fleet operators, cities and delivery services.

A brief new mobility glossary

From Mobility as a Service to Car-to-X. Novel names and abbreviations shape the language of the mobility of tomorrow. We explain the most important terms.