Bosch self-driving car spotted in California

CNET catches a car equipped with a sensor array and sporting a Bosch sign on its door roving the streets of Palo Alto, Calif., near a Bosch research office.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Declan McCullagh/CNET

Google's fleet of autonomous cars, based on the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX, have become almost a common site in the high-tech environs of the San Francisco Bay Area, but CNET reporter Declan McCullagh caught a new entrant on the scene, an apparently Bosch-owned autonomous research car driving the roads around Palo Alto, Calif.

The car was a BMW 325d, a European diesel model not currently available in the U.S. As Bosch supplies the diesel components for the 325d engine, it is not surprising the company would use this model.

Perched on top of the car sat a rack holding a sensor array, similar to that found on Google's autonomous cars. The component sitting highest is likely a LIDAR sensor, which uses lasers to paint a 3D picture of the car's environment. Sitting lower is an industrial-grade GPS antenna, essential for telling the car's computer where it is in the world.

At the time McCullagh spotted the car, it seemed to be under the operation of its driver.

California legalized autonomous car testing on public roads last year, so it is likely that Bosch's Palo Alto research center is taking a lead on developing this technology. At the beginning of this year, Bosch released a video outlining its work on autonomous car technology.

As a major global automotive supplier, Bosch cannot ignore the potential and opportunity of autonomous cars. The technology may not be ready for public dispersal as of yet, but its promise of nearly accident-free driving makes it a sure-bet for the near future.

Bosch autonomous car
The GPS antenna, mounted on the BMW's rack, is visible in this picture. Declan McCullagh/CNET

Bosch released this video about its autonomous car research earlier this year.