As early as 2015, Germany set the goal of being number one in the world for autonomous driving.
As early as 2015, Germany set the goal of being number one in the world for autonomous driving.
Reminder: Looking back at the evolution of the automobile industry in the past decade, autonomous driving has become the main battlefield for technological powers to seize the right to speak in future mobility. Policies of various countries are competing to open up, enterprise technologies are short-handed, and supporting products are emerging one after another… An era of unmanned people is slowly coming.
In this process, how can countries on all continents embrace change? How to drive to the end of unmanned driving?
Based on this, Xinzhijia launched the “Global Autonomous Driving Industry Reform” series of articles, traversing the vast and complicated information dense forest, focusing on the application of the autonomous driving industry in various countries.
This is the second article in the series of new intelligent driving “Global Autonomous Driving Industry Reform”, the protagonist is Germany.
After world war, secession, after the establishment of the European Union, the world’s first three-wheeled vehicles are still sleeping quietly in Germany Si Tu Jia special city Benz car museum, waiting for the world to wake up again.
In the development of the automobile industry in 136 years, Germany has passed the trough and peak, and the automobile has become a bright and beautiful background engraved in its culture.
At the moment when the trend of autonomous driving is sweeping, a new layer of color has been added to the ancient German automobile industry-the inheritance of the traditional automobile industry is unswerving, and it has also been smashed for the implementation of autonomous driving.
As old and new industries converge, the process of autonomous driving in Germany may have many unknown aspects.
Pioneers at the forefront of policy
In 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler built the world’s first gasoline engine. The following year, the world’s first car was also born in Germany.
At that time, the second industrial revolution was in the ascendant on the European continent. The internal environment of peaceful reunification enabled Germany to complete the industrial revolution in just 30 years. The improvement of the internal combustion engine and the invention of automobiles have also added a pair of powerful wings to the development of the German automobile industry.
After a century of industrial development, the output value of the German automobile industry in 2020 has accounted for 9.8% of its GDP. Nearly one million people are engaged in upstream and downstream related work in the automobile industry. The automobile industry has also become one of Germany’s most important business cards in the world.
However, with the emergence of new energy vehicles that do not require internal combustion engines and people’s increasing attention to autonomous vehicles, the German automobile industry has begun to be threatened.
In order to keep pace with the times, the German government announced in 2015 the “Automated and Connected Driving Strategy” that maintaining a leading position in the field of autonomous driving is “the foundation for the country’s sustainable development and prosperity.”
The German Federal Minister of Transport is ambitious: “Germany must become the world’s number one in autonomous driving technology.”
At that time, autonomous driving had just started the first wave of craze, and Germany’s response was not unsatisfactory. Subsequently, under the guidance of this strategy, Germany’s autonomous driving industry began to grow.
According to a report from German Automotive Weekly, between 2011 and 2018, Germany’s autopilot patents in the European Patent Office accounted for 14% of the total number of patent applications, making it the country with the highest number of autopilot patents in Europe. Among them, most of the patents come from parts suppliers such as Bosch and Continental.
In addition, a number of autonomous driving startups are also intensively budding in Germany around 2017.
According to data such as Crunchbase and Tracxn, Germany currently has more than 70 companies related to autonomous driving, covering areas such as autonomous driving, sensors, map positioning, and big data.
Out of the importance of the autonomous driving industry, Germany has also become the first country in the world to legislate for autonomous driving. Since 2017, Germany has revised the Road Traffic Law several times. The “Road Traffic Law” passed the eighth amendment by the German Bundestag stipulates that under certain time and conditions, a highly or fully automated driving system can take over the driver’s control of the car, and distinguishes the rights and obligations of different responsible parties .
Recently, the German Federal Council passed a new version of the “Road Traffic Law”, allowing driverless cars to drive on public roads in Germany in 2022, provided that they can be taken over remotely at any time.
In addition, Germany took the lead in considering data privacy and ethics in the driving of autonomous vehicles, and introduced relevant policies for both.
In terms of data privacy, the German government requires that autonomous vehicles must be equipped with black boxes. Under normal circumstances, the storage time of data shall not exceed 6 months; even for a vehicle that has been involved in a traffic accident, the storage time of its data shall not exceed 3 years.
In terms of ethics, the German Autonomous Driving Ethics Committee has also promulgated guidelines for autonomous driving to provide a reference for companies to develop autonomous driving technologies.
The guiding principles include that humans have priority over animals and property, and that everyone has an equal right to life, etc., to provide ethical guidance for companies when designing self-driving cars.
A slow road test
The German government has adopted multiple strategies for the development of autonomous driving, but the technical aspects seem to be unable to match the supporting measures.
According to the “Autonomous Driving Disengagement Report 2020” issued by the California Transportation Administration, among the 29 participating companies, BMW and Mercedes-Benz from Germany almost slipped out of the top 20 in total, 17 and 19 respectively.
In terms of specific values, the average takeover mileage of the top two Waymo and Cruise are about 48,000 kilometers and 46,000 kilometers, respectively; while for BMW and Mercedes-Benz, this data is only on the order of tens of kilometers.
The unsatisfactory results may be due to Germany’s special national conditions to a large extent-although it started early in autopilot testing, it has not been smooth along the way.
In the early stages of the development of autonomous driving, Germany was still one of the member states of the “Vienna Road Traffic Convention”. According to the provisions of the Convention, the driver must always control the means of transportation while the vehicle is driving.
Therefore, the early testing conditions of autonomous driving roads in Germany were limited, and they were mostly carried out in foreign countries, in closed environments, and on highways with no speed limit. For example, Mercedes-Benz and BMW previously cooperated with Baidu in autonomous driving projects in China.
However, the relatively closed and single road test environment cannot collect diverse road data for autonomous vehicles to improve their ability to handle various long-tail scenarios.
On March 23, 2016, the new version of the “Vienna Road Traffic Convention” officially came into effect in Germany. For the first time, the convention added legal provisions related to autonomous driving, allowing cars to turn on autonomous driving mode under certain circumstances.
However, it wasn’t until the German Bundestag passed the eighth revised “Road Traffic Law” in May 2017 that Germany began to build a large-scale autonomous driving test zone in the country and start testing on public roads for autonomous driving.
In 2018, Berlin started trial operation of driverless buses to carry passengers on two public roads.
In 2019, Germany opened the world’s first self-driving city center in the center of Berlin. Five L3 level self-driving cars with safety officers will drive in the city.
It is reported that the road section is a two-way three-lane road with various road environments such as traffic light systems, roundabouts, bicycle lanes and sidewalks, parking lots and entrances and exits. Pedestrians and cyclists are densely packed in 3.6 kilometers of downtown roads, and there are up to 60,000 vehicles daily.
At present, Germany has carried out relevant tests in Berlin, Hamburg, Aachen, Duisburg, Aldenhofen and other regions.
In addition, Germany has also joined forces with France to divide an autonomous driving test area on the cross-border highway between the two sides. The test section is 70 kilometers long and connects western Germany with eastern France.
In addition to domestic companies, foreign companies are also allowed to carry out autonomous driving tests on multiple road sections and multiple scenarios in Germany.
In 2019, Xiantu Intelligent cooperated with ALBA Group, one of Germany’s largest sanitation companies, and its unmanned sweeper is now in trial operation in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
In 2020, the German certification body TüV Süd issued the first batch of autonomous driving road test permits to companies such as Mobileye. The approved companies can carry out autonomous driving tests on public roads in German cities, rural areas and highways.
In November last year, Neolithic became the first company in China to be certified for the TüV Süd L4 unmanned vehicle project, and its L4 unmanned vehicle will be put into operation in Duisburg, Germany.
Although it was a bit slower in the road test of autonomous driving, Germany has been catching up since then.
Industry potential not to be underestimated
The impact of autonomous driving technology on the auto industry is like a boulder being thrown into a calm lake, stirring up the German auto industry.
A study by the Automotive Research Center of the University of Duisburg-Essen shows that with the emergence of new cars, German OEMs and Tier 1 will lose 234,000 jobs by 2030.
On the other hand, the declining global share of German cars is also forcing Germany to develop future-oriented autonomous driving technology.
Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoff of the University of Duisburg-Essen pointed out that the global share of German cars in 1997 was 11.9%, but this figure fell to 5.9% in 2019, and there is still the possibility of further reduction.
Under the risk of increasing unemployment and shifting the focus of the global automotive industry, the German government, the automotive industry, and universities have continuously increased their investment in autonomous driving technology in recent years.
German Chancellor Merkel proposed at an event that Germany will focus on increasing research and development expenditures in artificial intelligence and electric vehicles, and the proportion of research and development expenditures in this area will rise to 3.5% of GDP by 2025.
Bernhard Mattes, head of the German Automobile Industry Federation, also stated in 2019 that the German automobile industry will invest 18 billion euros in the field of autonomous driving in the next three years.
In addition to policies, the research community is also working hard.
In the past few years, several universities in Germany have invested millions of euros on average to carry out research on autonomous driving-related projects. Among them, there are many universities that are famous for automotive-related majors, such as the Technical University of Berlin and the Technical University of Munich.
Promoting the development of autonomous driving from top to bottom, the number of autonomous driving patents in Germany is gradually increasing.
According to a study by the Cologne Institute of Economics (IW), German manufacturers own 52% of global autonomous driving patents, and six of the top ten are from German companies.
At the same time as the improvement of autonomous driving technology, the superimposition of the German car brand effect may boost the export of German autonomous vehicles.
According to the “ANSYS Global Autonomous Vehicle Report” released in 2019, 24% of the respondents believe that German OEMs such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi , BMW, and Porsche will produce the safest and most reliable products in population surveys in multiple countries. Of self-driving cars. And this is inseparable from the deep heritage of the German automobile industry.
Although Germany’s autonomous driving technology does not seem to be among the top in the world, Germany is explosive, that is, to achieve technological catch-up in a very short period of time.
After World War II, the German military industry was severely hit by the United States, Britain, France and other countries. For a time, the development of German synthetic gasoline, rubber, and certain types of machine tools was banned, and 70% of the industrial infrastructure was demolished.
A requirement of the “Potsdam Conference Communiqué” stipulates: “In order to eliminate German combat capabilities, weapons, equipment, war tools, and various types of aircraft and sea ships must be prohibited and prevented from being produced.”
Under this circumstance, the automobile industry, which is slightly less threatening to countries such as the United States, Britain and France, has become one of the important ways for Germany to revitalize the economy.
After more than ten years of development, the annual output of German automobiles reached 2 million in 1960, and the annual output increased by 5.7 times in 10 years, with an average annual growth rate of 21%. Since then, Germany has become Europe’s largest car producer and exporter.
With the auto industry’s deep roots, the brand’s deep occupation of the minds of users, and the authorities heavily betting on autonomous driving technology, as the mass production of German cars equipped with advanced autonomous driving technology rolls off the production line, Germany may also be able to do so in the field of autonomous vehicles. Occupy the status it is today.
No country has ever regarded the automobile industry as a major lifeline of the national economy like Germany. Even in the United States, which is on par with Germany in this field, auto output only accounts for 0.8% of its GDP.
Under high pressure of economic sanctions more than two countries after World War II, Germany seize the country Bo policy gap of chess, only 10 years back to the top.
Today, the Germans are still unable to conceal their pride in the automobile industry everywhere. The German government’s advanced opening up to autonomous driving may be a testament to its attempt to maintain its proud capital in a new era.
At the same time, it should also be noted that although the goal of becoming “world number one” has been set early and a number of breakthrough policies have been introduced, Germany’s pace of autonomous driving road testing has started late and slowed down. .
It may take some time before Germany achieves its ambitious goals.
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