Since 2018, there has been a testing ground for autonomous driving in Friedrichshafen. Here, ZF gathers data and uses them to conduct computer simulations. How does this happen? We accompanied the test engineers on a drive.
May 16, 2019
Tamara Beck has many years of experience in corporate communications of technology companies. She is working as Corporate Editor at ZF since 2018.
RESCU – "Reference and Scenario gathering Unit” is written in blue script on the silver VW Touran with a conspicuous roof structure. The name is an accurate one: behind the collector of reference data and scenarios lies a vehicle that is equipped with radar, Laser Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), and camera sensors, as well as with high-resolution GPS
The technology installed by ZF enables engineers to have a 360-degree view around the vehicle. “With the data collected by the RESCU vehicle we can create a virtual world to test and optimize autonomous driving functions”, explains Jürgen Schmidt. He is Senior Manager Vehicle Testing & Fleet Management at ZF. “With these computer simulations, we can cover many more test kilometers than would be possible in the real world.”
Tests in extremely varied traffic situations
The test driver leaves the premises of the ZF Corporate Headquarters in the RESCU vehicle and, first of all, follows the basic route in Friedrichshafen. In future, more and more autonomous functions will take over the task of driving. However, by then, no one should need to have any fear of accidents. A test driver will always be on board, who keeps an eye on the steering wheel and who can go ‘hands-on’ whenever he or she considers it necessary to do so.
Over a total distance of 5.5 kilometers, different types of roads are encountered, including a highway and speed zones of 50 km/h and 30 km/h. These also include roundabouts, multi-lane bends, and unmarked roads. At a later point in time, these will present autonomous vehicles with special challenges.
"With the data collected by the RESCU vehicle, we can create a virtual world to test and optimize autonomous driving functions."
Jürgen Schmidt, Senior Manager Vehicle Testing & Fleet Management at ZF
The test drive continues at walking pace through the pedestrian zone in downtown Friedrichshafen. This section of the test route was included in the testing ground earlier this year. Precisely defined laws of the game apply here: Never more than two cars must drive this section of the test route at the same time to avoid disruption to local residents and to shoppers. After that, the route continues through residential areas heading towards the campus of the Zeppelin University, then finally back to the ZF Corporate Headquarters. “Our RESCU vehicle has completed its work for today”, says Schmidt as he sums up the test drive. “Thanks to the collected data, we can now conduct further tests in the virtual world.”
The more different the road types and the more challenging the traffic situations, the better. Computer simulations are created from the collected data.
In 2019 the former test ground (yellow) has been extended. Now it also contains parts with residential areas and pedestrian zones.