In an interview with dSPACE Magazine, Dr. Dirk Walliser, Senior Vice President Corporate Research and Development Innovation and Technology of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, explains why autonomous driving is significant for the company and talks about the possible next steps towards market introduction.
Mr. Walliser, what is the role of autonomous driving for ZF?
Autonomous driving is an example of how developments advance much faster than anybody anticipated even a few years ago. We consider it an opportunity to expand our market position with innovative solutions at an early stage. Our strategic focus at ZF is therefore shifting even more to being a system provider for technologies that will impact the mobility of the future.
What is your development approach for these systems?
The first important step is to identify the market opportunities arising from the sometimes disruptive changes. The systems defined for these opportunities are created with a great deal of agility in development, supported by an experienced team with high development competence. For certain topics, we also draw on existing developments and competencies of partners. Thanks to this approach we were able to quickly set up our new, autonomous technology platform and quickly achieve a high degree of maturity, for example.
What are the application scenarios of the new ZF platform for autonomous technologies?
We are mainly focusing on mobility concepts such as ride hailing – autonomous shuttles that users can call via an app. Initially, these shuttles are planned to operate in non-public places like airports or large company premises. The technology of our platform can certainly be used for other applications such as ports, open pit mining, or agriculture.
What has to be done to get autonomous driving on public roads?
Industry has made a start. They have shown that the technology is manageable. This can also be achieved with validation systems as they are provided by dSPACE. Lawmakers now have to create the right framework for the approval of autonomous vehicles.
What is the special mark of ZF’s new test system for the validation of autonomous vehicles?
With the new test system, we validate the central, AI-based control unit of our autonomous technology platform ZF ProAI. Using HIL technology, we can achieve this in early development phases and maintain cost-efficiency even when combined with sensors and actuators. You could say: AI-in- the-loop. This validation is performed during a sensor-realistic real-time simulation, i.e., in a virtual 3-D world taking into account the vehicle dynamics with traffic scenarios that can be flexibly defined. The virtual environment represents a digital twin of real routes and is generated from map data and high-precision vehicle measurements.