By far the largest market for Germany’s biggest privately-held company is the business with automotive systems. In this market, enabling vehicles to drive autonomously is one of the most promising activities. Making cars “at least as smart and proactive as human drivers” (Bosch board member Dirk Hoheisl) however is, despite many R&D activities across the industry, not a trivial task and far from being solved. In the effort to make cars as smart as humans (and perhaps smarter), Artificial Intelligence is considered as the philosopher’s stone – and that’s why Bosch will invest in this technology. Over the next five years, automotive supplier Bosch announced to invest 300 million euros establishing an AI center with locations in India, USA and Germany. AI will help the to categorize and classify the 3D-surround images created by sensors like cameras, radar and probably in the future lidar.
The immense amounts of data generated by these sensors- up to 1 Gbyte per second- will require very powerful data processing platforms, Hoheisl said. Therefore, the company plans to build a computer capable of performing 30 trillion deep learning operations per second. The computer will likely be based on processors from Nvidia as it is known that Bosch has signed a collaboration agreement with the manufacturer of graphic cards and AI computing platforms. Bosch’s AI platform will be available in series production at the beginning of the next decade at latest, Hoheisl said.
Another focus of Bosch is automotive connectivity. In this segment, Bosch has recently entered the testing phase for a mobility assistant that shows users the fastest and easiest route to its destination. This includes the use of changing means of transport – automotive, rail, bus, and even bike. The system is implemented as a smartphone app and based on real-time traffic data. In this context, the company is developing a cloud-based data mobility service. Users will be able to access the service through a variety of future application programs and smartphone apps with a broad range of different functions, from smart home related services to real-time parking space dispatching. The roll-out of these programs and apps will start later this year.
Synthetic fuels – an alternative to electromobility?
The future of the powertrain is another topic currently in the limelight of the public discussion, in particular against the backdrop of potential diesel bans in several major cities (including Bosch’s hometown Stuttgart). While industrialization of electromobility for standard passenger cars is following the path described earlier – no major news in this part of Bosch’s universe- the discussion about future fuels is continuing. Bosch maintains its position that the diesel engine will play an indispensable role in reducing earth warming, since diesel engines emit less CO2 than petrol engines. “The current CO2 goals cannot be achieved only by switching to electromobility”, said Bosch board member Rolf Bulander at the event.
Improved internal combustion engines will be the dominant traction technology for many years, he pointed out. It would even be possible to turn them into a viable alternative to electromobility and make them compatible with CO2 goals. Towards this end, Bosch is advocating the introduction of synthetic fuels: Chemically identical to diesel or gasoline, these fuels are produced artificially. Instead of gaining them from fossil materials like crude oil, they are synthesized from water and carbon dioxide To manufacture them at an industrial scale it would be necessary to massively use electricity from renewable sources in Africa to produce synthetic fuels.
The benefit of this technology: In contrast to electromobility (battery electric mobility as well as fuel cell-based technologies) there would be no need to establish a new energy infrastructure since the existing filling station network could be used further. Plus, in contrast to conventional fuels, synthetic ones are CO2 neutral because during their production, the CO2 required is extracted from the air. “There are many roads to emission-free mobility – and Bosch is exploring them all,” Bulander said.