Bosch looks into the future of trucking

by Sonia Straface

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – To say Bosch is optimistic about the future of trucking is an understatement.

The technology solutions company laid out its vision for what’s to come at its Mobility Experience USA 2018 event at its proving grounds in Farmington Hills, Mich.

In the future it sees trucks with zero accidents, zero downtime, and no driver shortage.

Bosch test vehicle

Jason Roycht, the regional business unit leader of commercial vehicles and off-road for Bosch, said at the event on May 22 that the potential of having autonomous trucks on the road in the future, means the driver shortage will be a distant memory.

“We have an industry here in the U.S. that has a chronic driver shortage,” he said. “The shortage of drivers projected into the future, is a function not only of the increase of transportation, but the function of an aging driver base.”

Roycht explained that perhaps, with the introduction of features associated with automation, the driver shortage will disappear.

“This is an industry that has a chronic issue to get drivers in there…but the potential with automation is zero downtime, zero accidents and cost reduction,” he said.

With this bullish outlook for the future, it’s no wonder it was the company to team up with Nikola Motor, another forward-thinking powerhouse, to develop a powertrain to bring two hydrogen-electric, long-haul truck models to market by 2021.

What Bosch and Nikola are working on would be a world-first, said Roycht, called the eAxle – a scalable, modular platform with the motor, power electronics and transmission in one single unit. The eAxle is going to be paired with a fuel cell system to form the first-ever dual motor, electric long-haul tractor.

“Fuel cell is the fuel of the future,” he said. “And what we see, especially for the trucking industry, is the potential to use fuel cell as a range extender….one that would match that of a diesel…We have done extensive work on the fuel cells. We’ll be designing what we hope to be a modular fuel cell…to drive any commercial vehicle you can think of.”

Bosch is also doing a lot of work with passenger vehicles – such as connected parking solutions that help passengers find free parking in the city, as well as an infotainment system that has learning capabilities to reduce the number of interactions and eyes off road time.

“The approach that Bosch is taking is, all the technology we’re developing for passenger car, all have a potential place in the trucking industry,” he said.

One such technology is the automatic emergency braking system for cyclists. Now only being developed for passenger cars, the system uses sensors to detect cyclists monitoring speed, distance, and direction to calculate the risk of an accident. Bosch said if the collision is imminent with the cyclist, the system would stop and bring the vehicle to a stop to avoid or reduce the severity of a collision.

Like many OEMs, Bosch also sees platooning as a stepping stone to driverless vehicles.

“We see guided platooning as a more comfortable way to introduce autonomous vehicles in terms of social issues,” Roycht said.

At the event on May 22, Bosch unveiled its fusion of automated and connected technologies, called vehicle-to-anything (V2X) that can sense what is beyond sightlines by connecting vehicles and the world around them.

Also on display was the Servotwin and Servolectric steering system. Bosch calls the Servotwin a prerequisite needed for automated driving as it enables automatic steering for lane-keeping assistance. It worked in tandem with the Mirror Camera System, what Bosch sees will replace traditional sideview mirrors. The MCS has exterior cameras and two 15-inch monitors inside the cab. According to Bosch, replacing mirrors with camera reduces drag.

Mirror Camera System

Commercial trucking journalists were allowed to see the Servolectric Paraxial Servo Unit in action at the proving grounds. While idle, the driver could move the steering wheel effortlessly – with literally just one finger. However, thanks to its fail-operational steering, when the truck engine was turned off, simulating an emergency situation, the driver was able to steer the truck, using electric power, and safely perform lane changes.

Lane keeping technologies are also on Bosch’s radar. It is currently working on a lane keeping support system, that uses a video camera that is activated at 40 mph. The camera detects lane markings on the road and monitors the truck’s position. The system intervenes if a minimum distance from the lane marking is not maintained, through counter-steering.

Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch North America said since 2016, the company has grown to 34,500 employees — up 5%. In addition, it currently employs 4,000 engineers globally who work on automation — up 1,000 from a year ago.

“We are in the era of transformation,” he said. “The center of development isn’t whose approach is right – the center of development is the human being. The people inside these next generation vehicles, their safety and their overall experience are the primary focus. Together we can foster consumer trust instead of anxiety, uncertainty and fear.”


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