Volkswagen Sedric autonomous platform to be shared across the group

The Volkswagen Sedric preview of a modular autonomous vehicle structure that can be adapted to the extent of the forms by the Volkswagen Group of different brands.

The Group, which plans to change its approach in the long term from being a traditional manufacturer of automobiles to a provider of mobility solutions, will allow each brand to see what they can come up with the basis of this technology,” said Jürgen Michl, head of exterior design at VW, the Future Centre of Europe.

The teams work in the new headquarters in Potsdam, near Berlin, is going to take a new approach to the development of the vehicle. “We are seeing how we can help with the mobility of the future through the creation of ideas and see how people respond to them,” a specialist from the Center of the user experience (UX) team explained. “We’re still going to focus on the technology and the design, but most of all we will concentrate on the human.”

The process includes tests to measure the reaction of the new groups of users, such as children or the visually impaired, to autonomous functions.

It is expected that the autonomous pods as the Sedric will be designed for two or more occupants and their luggage. No assumption is at this stage that the self-employed will necessarily be free of accidents, so that the interiors still allow the seat belts, baggage restrictions and other passive safety features.

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The Sedric was conceived by interviewing a small sample of the groups of potential users. The goal is to make advanced autonomous vehicles as easy to use as possible and accessible to people who are not technologically minded.

The design of the single Button controller that is used to invoke, access and location of the Sedric was based in part on an interview with an 82 year old grandmother. “She had a similar vision of things, so we gave her a working prototype to test,” explained a specialist. More tech-savvy, users also have the option of a smartphone application. The preferences between the application and the Button were split 50/50 across the sample of people interviewed.

The domestic style interior of the Sedric also reflects the views of the groups. Verena Thomas, who is in charge of color and design of the materials in the Future Center of Europe, said that users “don’t want a public transport, the sensation of” inside the pods. This led to the natural materials, such as the birch bark to be chosen with the purpose of supporting the “living room feeling”.

The key to make autonomous vehicles safe, says the former atomic physicist Dr. Heiko Kurz, is the use of the ‘triple redundancy’: three different sources, which are 360deg lidar, camera and radar sensor systems. If the Sedric the computer finds the information correlates the three, it is known that the information is reliable. This approach also protects against individual sensor failure.

The Sedric works autonomously by using the information processing at high speed in six steps. The first is the “see-through” sensors, the second is the localization and the perception of where the car works of where it is, and takes in his surroundings. The third step is to fuse the information in a virtual model of the environment around them.

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Then comes the stage of interpretation and prediction, in which the Sedric gets his bearings and to predict what is going to happen next. This is followed by the trajectory planning, where you decide which route to follow along the road and around objects. Finally, there is performance, where it carries out the plan.

In terms of autonomous cars, the Future Center teams to think “in the distance, around 2030-2035,” a specialist said. There are two other Centres of the Future, in Belmont, California and Beijing, China. The Centers, which began operation in February 2016 and are supported by 39 Centers of Competence around the world. In total, there are around 2,000 experts working in the project.

The level of autonomy that a vehicle can reach is ranked on a scale of five by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). A conventional car trusting completely in the control of the driver is Level 0. Current cars with the most advanced systems ADAS capable of accelerating and braking, as well as a degree of entry of direction of systems, such as Traffic Jam Assist, are classified in Level 3. The Sedric is Level 5, which means fully autonomous and without a driver.