VW tests automated driving in Hamburg

Volkswagen Group Research is testing automated vehicles in urban traffic in Hamburg. This is the first time Volkswagen has begun to test automated driving to Level 4 at real driving conditions in a major German city.

From now, a fleet of five e-Golf, equipped with laser scanners, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radars, will drive on a three-kilometer section of the digital test bed for automated and connected driving in the Hanseatic city. The results of the test drives, which will be continuously evaluated taking full account of all data protection rules, will be incorporated in the Group’s numerous research projects on automated driving, and will test customer-centric services and optimize individual transport.

Axel Heinrich, head of Volkswagen Group Research, commented, ‘The tests centre on technical possibilities as well as urban infrastructure requirements. In order to make driving even safer and more comfortable in future, vehicles not only have to become autonomous and more intelligent – cities must also provide a digital ecosystem that enables vehicles to communicate with traffic lights and traffic management systems as well as with one another.’

A nine-kilometer digital test bed for automated and connected driving is currently being constructed in the city of Hamburg, with completion scheduled for 2020.

To that end, Hamburg is upgrading traffic lights with components for infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. Volkswagen and the city of Hamburg are thus taking a decisive step to further optimising traffic flows through digitalisation and to full-size implementation of automated driving in the city area.

The e-Golf configured by Volkswagen Group Research have eleven laser scanners, seven radars and 14 cameras. Up to five gigabytes of data are communicated per minute during the regular test drives, each of which lasts several hours. Computing power equivalent to some 15 laptops is tucked away in the trunk of the e-Golf.

Despite the diversity and complexity of the information, the artificial intelligence used in the vehicle software must register all relevant objects and respond to them without triggering any false alarms. Several different artificial intelligence approaches are used: these include deep learning, neural networks and pattern recognition.

For safety reasons, specially trained test drivers will be seated behind the steering wheel during all test drives in Hamburg to constantly monitor all driving functions and intervene in an emergency. Furthermore, all data protection rules will be fully taken into account.