"Self-driving cars dominate within 30 years"
This is the prediction of Joacim Bergman at ÅF Embedded Systems, where vehicle control systems are a growing area.
Modern vehicles are essentially rolling computers. What was previously controlled with hydraulics and mechanics is controlled today by advanced systems that control everything from lights to the engine, the climate system, chassis and steering. Developing electronics and software for the vehicle industry is a growing area for ÅF.
“The trend is that an increasing number of systems are controlled by electronics and software,” says Joacim Bergman,Head of Project Delivery Organisation at Embedded Systems in Göteborg.
So-called active safety functions are growing the most and are based on the vehicle warning or taking over the steering in various situations. For example, lane keeping, where the car uses camera and radar to ensure to always stay in the lane, or automatic braking and avoidance.
Something that has driven the development is that processing power has decreased in price. A modern car contains around 200 processors, something that would have been unreasonably expensive just ten year ago. It has also become a competitive tool for the car-makers to offer smart functions and services.
“For example, anyone who has a modern Volvo can get a grocery bag delivered to the car. The boot door is unlocked using online software when the delivery person arrives,” says Joacim Bergman.
The extension of the technology is autonomous driving – or self-driving cars as they are commonly called. Here, ÅF is involved in several research projects, together with Chalmers University of Technology, SP, Volvo Cars and Autoliv, to name a few.
“The research in this area helps us stay on the forefront at the same time that it attracts both new customers and new employees,” says Joacim Bergman.
So why don’t we already have self-driving cars in Sweden today? Joacim Bergman explains that the major challenges are system safety and legislation. In purely technical terms, a self-driving car can be built, but to-date, it has not been possible to guarantee that it will continue to work safely, for example if a sensor misbehaves, or if a cable is loose.
“Sure, there’s a small fleet of self-driving cars on public roads in many places today. But there, they have decided that the benefits outweigh the risks, and you have to be able to conduct tests to develop the technology faster,” says Joacim Bergman.
His prediction is that self-driving cars will dominate in 30 years. It will not only make the roads safer, but also reduce environmental impact since the total need for cars will decrease.
“Instead of owning a vehicle, we will subscribe to transport services, and anyone who needs to travel somewhere will be picked up in a self-driving taxi,” says Joacim Bergman.
One leading competence area within ÅF's Embedded Systems business area is the development of electronic control units (ECU) that are used to control everything from lights to the engine, climate system, chassis and steering in a vehicle.
The ECUs that ÅF develops are often communication intensive and generally based on Autosar – a platform software that is comparable to an operating system for cars.
ÅF contracts out consultants in the field, but also takes on whole projects, from requirement studies to concept, design and development.
The clients are mainly car-makers and subcontractors in Sweden, Germany and China.