2019

#zfexperts

From science fiction to reality

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Tags: ZeroAccidents, AutonomousDriving, ArtificialIntelligence, SeeThinkAct, Careers

Dennis Windmeier, October 16, 2019
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Dennis Windmeier Dennis Windmeier graduated in Information Technology in 2013. In 2017, he became Senior Software Developer at the ZF subsidiary Zukunft Mobility GmbH in Kösching.
As a child, Dennis Windmeier was fascinated by the idea of driverless flying cars. Today, as a software developer at Zukunft Mobility GmbH, he creates the fundamental principles for turning self-driving cars on public roads into reality.

As a child in the 1990s, I once read a story about autonomous cars that could even fly. I found the idea totally awesome. Of course, I never imagined that years later I would study IT, then work as a software developer on concepts for future driver assistance functions. Just as impossible to predict was the technological progress that has put highly automated vehicles or flying devices within our reach.

Before we can actually use them in everyday traffic, we need to develop and test a whole variety of potential solutions for their extensive software functions. This is the only way to create the fundamental principles necessary for volume production development and integration into vehicles. And that's exactly what I'm privileged to work on today as a software developer. So for me, a childhood dream has come true.

Core objective: creating innovations

Core objective: creating innovations

My employer, Zukunft Mobility GmbH in Kösching near Ingolstadt, is a wholly owned subsidiary of ZF. We specialize in the development of functions, software, sensors, and simulation and test procedures for advanced driver assistance systems, integral vehicle safety and autonomous driving. In the simplest terms, our objective is to create innovations. We have a great deal of freedom to let our ideas grow. We start with basic ideas and concepts for advanced driver assistance systems. Then we put them through a Proof of Concept process. Agile working methods, flat hierarchies and self-organized teams are part of our corporate culture.
"We have a great deal of freedom to let our ideas grow."
— Dennis Windmeier

Space for free thinking

Space for free thinking

Basically, we approach innovations by experimenting with ideas, then evaluating how they could be applied in the future. Of course, sometimes we hit a dead end. But that doesn't stop us! Failures are important because we can draw conclusions from them and work out alternatives. It's called trial-and-error learning. For me, that's what makes my work so fascinating: We don't start with narrow requirements and restrictions.

There's no pre-defined, concrete hardware configuration we have to develop new functions for. If a software function seems basically promising, for example for automatic driving maneuvers that avoid collisions or for more comfort, we try it out with test hardware in prototypes. On our test driving site, we can test solutions in the real world and assess whether they are feasible for volume production and worth pursuing.

Getting self-driving cars onto the road

Getting self-driving cars onto the road

Our results also often help identify and formulate hardware requirements. For ZF as a complete supplier of automated driving systems – from sensors to actuators – insights like this are invaluable. That's because our ultimate objective is to get autonomous vehicles onto public roads, making traffic safer, more efficient and more comfortable.

The Group can utilize the basic principles me and my team draw up in a whole variety of ways. ZF develops automated driving systems for a wide range of applications – passenger cars, minibuses, commercial vehicles or agricultural machinery.

Now I've got two children of my own. I'm sure the self-driving cars that used to be science fiction for me will soon be reality for them. Naturally, I'd love it if they shared my enthusiasm. But more importantly, I want traffic to be safer for them and coming generations. It means a lot to me that my work can help bring us closer to that goal.

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