CAR Symposium 2017 Autonomous Driving Starts with Safety

At this year's CAR Symposium, ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer explained why autonomous driving presents particular challenges in terms of safety technology and described what potential solutions might look like.

The international CAR Symposium in Bochum has become an institution for the automotive industry. In fact, this year's event was the 17th edition already. It was centered around the topic "The dawn of a new era in the automotive industry". More than 1,200 attendees from the industry, the world of research and the media came together to exchange views. They attended panel discussions, presentations and various workshops to learn more about the pressing questions that the mobility industry is currently dealing with. Electromobility, connectivity and autonomous driving were the most prominent subjects and ran like a golden thread through the entire event. According to Professor Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, the organizer of the Symposium, this was almost inevitable because "electromobility represents an enormous challenge for manufacturers. We have to bear in mind that the engine, the transmission and the exhaust system make up 30 to 35 percent of a car's total value. So this is, among other things, a question about jobs. And, after all, autonomous driving is the key issue for everyone interested in or working with cars", the Chair of General Business Administration and Automotive Industry at the University of Duisburg-Essen explained in an interview with the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Acceptance depends on safe technology

Safety is of utmost importance for approval authorities and customers to accept highly automated and, in a next step, autonomous driving. The vehicles' active safety systems have to reduce the possibility of collisions to a negligible residual risk. Not all cars on the road will be equipped immediately with equally advanced safety technology. If a crash cannot be avoided, passive safety systems, such as airbags, have to function perfectly.

As vehicles will change massively in terms of both drive concepts and interior design, an ideally matching safety architecture will be indispensable. In the end, autonomous driving also means that both driver and passenger will want to make use of the newfound freedom during travel to do other things than today, e.g., work, play, read, talk to each other face to face or watch a movie to name just a few. Variable interior concepts in cars will allow for all of these things. As passengers will no longer be seated strictly forward facing, the belt and airbag systems as we know them today will not provide sufficient protection anymore. "We are therefore working very intensely on suitable solutions that will actually also bring about disruptive changes in terms of safety", ZF's CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer explained in his presentation titled 'Active and passive safety as drivers of innovation in passenger cars and trucks'. Further developed airbag solutions or new places to store them, such as the headliner, are possible. "External airbags for vehicles are another option, which, in the event of a side impact crash, can absorb up to 30 percent of the impact energy. This would represent a significant step forward in the design of the interior", Sommer added.

Photos: Jan Schürmann/D+S Automotive; ZF

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