Bosch Self-Driving Shuttle Tech Aimed at Urban Environments

German engineering and electronics giant Bosch is planning to showcase a glassy, driverless electric shuttle designed for use in urban areas at the upcoming 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Users would be able to book the shuttle, which boasts huge side windows to give passengers an unobstructed view of the outside world, through their smartphone.

While Bosch isn’t moving into vehicle manufacturing, it hopes to provide all the necessary components to make autonomous electric mobility a reality, including electric drive axles, ultrasonic sensors, braking control systems and power steering components

The company will also offer shuttle fleet operators charging, repairing and maintaining the vehicles, plus route planning and administrative activities, alongside services that let users book the vehicles, share rides and pay for the journey, according to a December 12 release.

Bosch is developing software platforms to help ensure user security, including a smartphone-based identification system employing the company’s Perfectly Keyless digital access service.

The platform recognizes the owner’s smartphone as a digital fingerprint and opens the vehicle only for them, and each passenger guaranteed the seat they reserved.

In addition to those passenger security measures, the company’s Escrypt subsidiary provides the shuttles with a suite of vehicle security software for keyless access systems and data connectivity with the outside world.

The connected vehicle also sports camera-based sensors that check the cabin to make sure passengers don’t leave their belongings behind, and could automatically notify them if it detects a forgotten object.

The sensors also determine whether the shuttle needs cleaning, and is naturally outfitted with infotainment screens can be used individually or shared by two or more riders if they want to view the same content.

The shuttle can provide also passengers with recommendations, advance bookings, weather reports and travel tips. The shuttles will be also outfitted with WiFi connectivity.

Bosch develops and makes its own radar, video, and ultrasonic sensors, braking control systems and power steering, while the company’s Convenience Charging service knows how long the battery charge will last and where to recharge the vehicle.

Information systems can calculate not only the current state of battery charge but also how much energy the heating and air-conditioning systems are consuming, and combine that data with data such as congestion and weather forecasts to more accurately predict vehicle range.

Preventative maintenance and cloud-based predictive diagnostics are also part of Bosch’s package, while service for over-the-air updates will determine whether the driverless shuttles have the latest software version.

Earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show Volkswagen officially debuted a school bus version of its awkwardly named SEDRIC (SElf DRIving Car), and the I.D. Vizzion concept car, which the company calls a “saloon” that riders can control through augmented reality, gestures and voice commands.

A similar-looking shuttle is already undergoing trials on the campus streets of the Charité Mitte hospital campus in Berlin.

The emergence of the shuttle segment is a result of rising demand for ridesharing services, according to a Roland Berger study.

In Europe, the US and China alone, about one million such on-demand shuttle buses will be on the roads as early as the year 2020, growing to 2.5 million by 2025.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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