The A9. A 529-km-long stretch of motorway in Germany, running from Munich to Berlin, will soon be home to one of the most thrilling mobility projects in recent history: a Digital Motorway Test Bed. If all goes as planned, on a future journey to the Reichstag or the Oktoberfest, you may witness autonomous cars, smartly zipping along this “laboratory with real life conditions”.
At a glance: The Digital Motorway Test Bed
Last January, the German government announced huge plans to roll out this future-oriented Mobility 4.0 project that’s unequalled worldwide. Its objective is to test, assess and develop new technical advances in the realm of automated and connected driving. Everyone from the automobile industry to the tech sector and researchers are encouraged to participate in this project that aims to keep Germany on the map as a leader in automotive engineering and technology.
What to expect – driverless cars?
Let’s be clear that this project is not about completely driverless cars, as promoted in the past by other industry players. It’s about facilitating trials for new partially and highly automated technologies that strive to make driving safer, more comfortable and kinder to the environment. I should also mention that trials will likely be split between regular lanes and designated test lanes, depending on numerous factors.
One such technology is the so called traffic jam assist (we all agree “assist” is an unfortunate misnomer here: it’s actually a partially automated driving feature, not a driving assistance feature). Under the right conditions, traffic jam assist automatically maintains a certain distance from the vehicle in front of you and ensures you stay in the right lane. Benefits for drivers include smoother flowing traffic, enhanced road safety and an even higher level of comfort for the driver. Sounds much more relaxing than how I currently navigate in stop-and-go situations – sign me up!
A digitalised super motorway
Connectivity in the form of car-to-car (C2C) or car-to-infrastructure (C2I) communication is also pivotal in the Digital Motorway Test Bed. Connecting cars to each other and to the relevant traffic infrastructure will enable improved driving conditions through the use of real-time traffic information. The plus: Cars autonomously adapt to the traffic environment by decelerating gradually or even allowing drivers to avoid traffic jams in the first place.
Enthusiasm from key players
Understandably the biggest German car manufactures have already expressed interest in collaborating on the project. For them, testing automated driving systems on the actual “autobahn” rather than on test courses is an welcome opportunity.
Of course, this project will involve a lot of trial and error over many phases and years to come. But the vision to bring automated and connected driving to the roads is extremely exciting. Sparked your curiosity? Read about the German government’s vision and plan for the project.
What do you think about sharing the motorway with automated and connected cars? Would you use one?