No matter what kind of system an autonomous car uses to provide motive power to its wheels, what it really runs on is data, and lots of it. In fact, the more data we can offer to an autonomous vehicle, the better it will be able to see the world around it.
A self-driving car is continuously being fed GPS data and images from its many cameras and sensors, but one thing that it has trouble finding currently is reliable information on road surface conditions and weather. Bosch wants to change that.
Bosch has partnered with a company called Foreca to deliver hyperlocal weather information to autonomous cars via the cloud and eventually to use sensor data from the vehicles themselves to augment the information available in said cloud.
"Wet roads, snow, ice -- with our predictive road-condition services, we alert to hazards before critical situations can develop. We are helped here by the weather data provided by our partner Foreca. This means an automated vehicle will know exactly where it can drive autonomously, and how," says the Bosch management board member Dr. Dirk Hoheisel.
For example, if a self-driving car is driving along a two-lane road and encounters a patch of localized ice in the shade of some trees, this car could detect that it had a stability control intervention, compare that with weather data, and communicate this information to Bosch's cloud. The other cars in the network would then be aware of the hazardous road condition and reroute to avoid it or turn control over to a human driver.
Bosch plans to roll out its road-weather system by 2020, well before we expect to see self-driving cars on the road in significant numbers, especially given that the initial market for this tech seems to be Europe.