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17 April 2019

Volkswagen tests Level 4 AVs in Hamburg

First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com

Volkswagen Research is testing autonomous vehicles (AVs) at SAE Level 4 in real driving conditions in the German city of Hamburg.

The announcement comes as the fall-out from VW’s ‘Dieselgate’ nightmare – when the company was found to have programmed turbocharged direct injection diesel engines to activate their emissions controls for laboratory tests - putters on. This week the company’s former chief executive Martin Winterkorn was charged with fraud for his involvement.

But VW has admitted that the scandal speeded up its search for new mobility solutions: in 2018, VW pledged to invest €34 billion in electric and AVs to 2022.

The Hamburg AV trial focuses on technical possibilities as well as urban infrastructure requirements, says Axel Heinrich, head of VW Research.

“In order to make driving even safer and more comfortable in future, vehicles not only have to become autonomous and more intelligent – cities must also provide a digital ecosystem that enables vehicles to communicate with traffic lights and traffic management systems as well as with one another,” Heinrich adds.

A fleet of five e-Golf vehicles will travel along a 3km section of a 9km test bed which is scheduled to be fully operational by 2020. The area will feature traffic lights with components for Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communication.

The company says each vehicle comes with 11 scanners, seven radars and 14 cameras while up to 5 gigabytes of data are communicated per minute during the test drives, which last several hours.  

According to VW, computing power (equivalent to 15 laptops) and sensor technology ensure that data on pedestrians, cyclists, other cars, intersections, rights of way, parked vehicles and lane changes in moving traffic are captured in milliseconds.

Additionally, the vehicle’s software uses several artificial intelligence approaches such as deep learning, neural networks and pattern recognition to register relevant objects and respond to them without triggering false alarms.  

For safety, trained test drivers will remain behind the wheel during all test drives to monitor driving functions and intervene in an emergency.

VW intends to incorporate the findings from the project into further research initiatives.

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