Bosch held a major press launch and ride-and-drive session for journalists across Europe last week in order to rebuild momentum for the company’s driver assistance systems.

In the last few years Bosch has seen long-term opportunities in the emergence of what it describes as “the sensitive car” – the integration of sensors and smart control systems with electronic control units around the car to produce safer vehicles with more comfort and better driving characteristics.

Peter Marks, board member of Bosch with responsibility for driver assistance systems, says that Bosch is able to produce innovations in this area through its CAPS approach (Combined Active and Passive Safety Systems) – networking existing systems and sensors.

Market development in this area has not been as strong as Bosch expected a few years ago. Bosch says that the key challenge is that a new market has to be created, which takes time.

Customers “have high expectations on performance and reliability of these functions”, said a Bosch executive, but the company is optimistic about medium-term market volumes.

Adding together the park pilot, adaptive cruise control (ACC) and video-based systems, the European market value was around €150m in 2000, says Bosch. Bosch estimates that the overall market will reach €500m by 2010 in Europe alone.

Globally the market volume of these systems is expected to be over €1bn. Bosch executives say these are conservative estimates that reflect only the areas in which Bosch is currently active.  The complete market for driver assistance systems is much larger.

ACC expected to grow faster
Bosch’s ACC is on four manufacturers’ vehicles, and fitment rates are growing quickly, say Bosch executives. ACC, despite a slower than expected market reception, has been spreading down from the high-end sector, and will soon reach the compact class, say Bosch executives.

Bosch showed a new second-generation system called ACC Plus, which it expects will go into production in 2006. The new system is both smaller, easier to install and is more useful on a broader range of roads with greater speed range for earlier detection of vehicles.

From 2007 or 2008 Bosch expects to start production of ACC with a full speed range, and the ACC Full Speed Range (FSR) system will allow the processing of information from video cameras, together with the ACC’s long-range radar.

With the ACC FSR’s better short range and slow speed performance, the ACC will become more useful in stop-go and inner city traffic, says Bosch. Bosch expects 20% of all new luxury cars in Western Europe to be fitted with adaptive cruise control by 2010.

Bosch is also looking for a possible “series introduction” of its Bosch parking space measurement system (PSM) in 2007. The system, based on two sensors in the vehicle, measures parking spaces as the vehicle passes by, and at the driver’s wish controls the steering to get the vehicle into the space.

Bosch is also working on lane change warning systems, and is developing its video technology in partnership with Kyocera.

Predictive Safety System (PSS) from 2005
Bosch is planning a series introduction of first generation predictive safety systems (PSS) for series production in 2005. The systems build on the information provided by adaptive cruise control to prepare the active and passive safety systems of a car for action.

The PSS system, for example, will pre-boost brake pressure, saving perhaps one-tenth of a second in the event of a braking action by the driver. Currently brake systems are not pre-filled because it would demand too much of the system’s durability, say Bosch executives.

In 2006 Bosch plans to introduce the second-generation predictive safety system with additional warning function. The warning is given by a short, sharp operation of the brakes.

“Studies of drivers have shown that a sudden braking impulse is the best way of drawing the driver’s attention to what is happening on the road”, said Bernd-Josef Schäfer, Vice President of the Driver Assistance Systems Business Unit at Bosch. The technical requirements of the system are basically an extended ESP system, says Schäfer.

For a third generation PSS system, which Schäfer estimates could come at the earliest in 2009, legal changes are required. The system would trigger automatically emergency braking with maximum vehicle deceleration. Potentially, this third generation PSS system could halve the number of collisions, Bosch estimates.

Bosch “not falling behind”
There was little that was in principle new about the technologies that Bosch was showing. The significance of the event is more that Bosch clearly now sees the area as ripe for take-off, and says that it has seen a growing interest in the area from its customers.

Bosch is clearly committed to the business area and currently has 300 product development engineers working on driver assistance programs. Bosch said that the functions are very complex “so large development resources are necessary”.

The Japanese manufacturers, in particular Toyota and to a lesser extent Nissan, have been leading the introduction of these driver assistance systems, and recently they have been followed by the French.

Bosch’s traditional core customers, the German carmakers, have in contrast lagged behind. Marks said that “market acceptance of such systems seems to be a little bit slower here in Europe than in countries such as Japan.”

“I don’t think that we are falling behind” said Marks, “but in particular the European customers have taken a different approach than in Japan”.

In Japan, carmakers have been able to introduce “more simple systems to start out with” said Marks “due to different regulations”  “We had to develop the systems which apply to this [European] market, and therefore it took a little bit longer” he said.