2015: the first driverless car on Swiss roads
With the driverless car, Swisscom aimed to gain insights into how mobility might look in the future. Innovation in tomorrow’s cars is highly dependent on networking and interaction with the environment, which is why Swisscom got involved in mobility issues of the future today.
In cooperation with UVEK (the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications) and Germany’s Autonomos Labs, Swisscom enabled the first driverless car to take to Swiss roads. The car in question was a VW Passat, which Autonomos Labs has fitted with sensors, computers and software. The computer drives, steers and brakes the vehicle autonomously, and detects other vehicles and pedestrians by means of laser scanners, radar and video cameras. Special software analyses the data, recognises driving situations and issues the driving commands. Between 4 and 14 May 2015, the car took on test drives through the streets of Zurich. There were specially trained drivers behind the steering wheel to ensure the necessary safety. UVEK approved testing on specified routes.
Digitisation changes mobility
The driverless car enabled Swisscom to gather empirical data for the mobility of the future. What does this mean for communication networks? How can vehicles, objects and people be optimally networked? Efficient traffic control systems result in less congestion, which in turn helps the environment and reduces economic costs: good reasons for Swisscom to be involved in the field of future mobility. Christian Petit, Head of Swisscom Enterprise Customers, says: “Swisscom is not turning into a car manufacturer. But future innovations in the automotive industry will focus on networking with the environment. For this reason, the driverless car is a prime example of digitisation and therefore of great interest to us.” As a leading ICT provider, Swisscom is perfectly positioned to network cars, objects and people. Moreover, the company intends to initiate debate on the topic. Driverless cars will throw up numerous questions. Should people still be allowed to steer a car if it is safer without the human factor? How will the laws be modified? Who is liable in the event of an accident?
Gradual steps towards driverless cars
Swisscom was already a pioneer in future mobility. The company analysed the anonymised location data of mobile phones for the Federal Roads Office and provided forecasts about traffic developments in big data projects. Thanks to the Internet of Things, a driverless car of the future will know what parking spaces are free even before it arrives, and head to them directly. Swisscom is also currently conducting tests in Zurich and Geneva on an alternative network for the Internet of Things, through which everyday objects can communicate with minimal energy consumption. Another potential example is companies renting out their parking spaces temporarily when they are free, while Swisscom is also looking at how the car could become a mobile workplace or cinema.
It will still be some time before autonomous cars circulate on Swiss roads on a wide scale and technology will take the wheel only gradually. Safety, comfort and traffic guidance will further improve as networking becomes more extensive.
Swisscom Business Campus
The driverless car was stationed at the new Swisscom Business Campus on Turbinenstrasse in Zurich during the test period. The Business Campus is a work space where Swisscom employees team up with corporate customers to develop ideas on digitisation, reflect on their impact on the economy and society, and consider the resulting opportunities for their company.
The driverless car was developed in the Autonomos innovation laboratory at the Free University of Berlin. Scientists there work on the development of autonomous and driver assistance systems with the objective of preventing traffic accidents in the future and increasing road safety through the use of modern computer and sensor technology. www.autonomos-labs.com
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