A Swabian entrepreneur puts his vision of the autonomous driving vehicle on the road using a Tesla Model 3 as an example. Roland Arnold has developed a key technology that makes autonomous driving feasible in Germany. He sees the new draft law on autonomous driving as confirmation of his work.
A Tesla Model 3 with the triple-redundant drive-by-wire technology Space Drive impressively demonstrates the potential of this technology - with full road approval: From the outside, the white Model 3 looks like any other. But anyone who opens the doors gets a glimpse of the automotive future. Swabian entrepreneur Roland Arnold has given the Tesla an upgrade. Steering wheel out, pedals out - the prototype is driven via a small joystick in the center console. This is made possible by a proven technology from the world of mobility for the disabled: the fail-safe Space Drive drive-by-wire system.
"We are excited to hear what Elon Musk has to say about this vehicle," says mobility inventor Arnold. "We've already been driving without a steering wheel and pedals for a long time - without any mechanical connection at all for the pri-mary vehicle functions of accelerator, brake and steering." Where the joystick still takes control here, driving automation could also be realized via an interface in the Space Drive control unit. An important step toward the mobility of the future. "Fail-safety is a key to autonomous driving," Arnold is certain. The fact that the technology comes from the world of mobility for the disabled is no coincidence: a person with limited mobility or strength cannot simply take the wheel if the technology fails. "He must be able to rely one hundred percent on our technology," says Arnold's claim. More than 8,500 such systems are already in use worldwide.
A bill passed by the German Bundestag last Thursday supports Arnold's vision. It opens up the possibility for level-four autonomous driving vehicles to become part of regular public road traffic on defined routes nationwide starting next year. The Bundesrat still has to approve it. "If the law comes, it will pave the way for testing and further developing the technology in public traffic areas. This will enable Germany to take on a pioneering role," said Arnold, who was recently honored with the Rudolf Diesel Medal for the most sustainable innovation achievement.
Fully automated level four driving means that the system no longer needs to be monitored by a physically present human driver. If there are vehicle occupants, they are only passengers, but they can initiate an emergency stop. As soon as the vehicle has to leave autonomous mode - in an emergency, for example - the system prompts the occupants or an external supervisor to take over. If no one reacts, the vehicle can bring itself to a halt on the hard shoulder, for example. The Federal Ministry of Transport cites shuttle traffic or buses traveling on a fixed route, so-called people-movers, as application scenarios. Such systems could also be used in freight transportation.
The law is intended to revise the technical requirements for the construction, condition and equipment of motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions. This would also include the testing and procedure for the issuance of an operating permit by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). It would also regulate the handling of data required for operation. According to Arnold, the ISO 26262 safety standard would form the basis for the extended test operation. It sets high requirements for hazard analysis and regulates how systems should react in the event of danger through self-diagnosis. The Space Drive System, which PARAVAN GmbH developed from mobility for the disabled, already meets these requirements today, creating a key technology for the mobility of tomorrow.
From the race track to the road - motorsport as a development accelerator
The Space Drive steer-by-wire technology has been approved by the German Motor Sports Federation (DMSB) for two years and has since been tested under the tough conditions of racing. The steering technology has been part of the "GTC Race" regulations since 2020 and in the DTM since this year - and is thus being further developed at racing speed. The system made its debut on the Nordschleife in a Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 at the ADAC Total 24h Nürburgring last year. In preparation for the 24h race at the Nürburgring from June 3 to 6, 2021, the #25 Mercedes-AMG GT3 has already successfully participated in a race on the Nordschleife as the first GT3 vehicle without a mechanical connection between the steering unit and steering gear. An important milestone in the development program and "the next logical step," as Arnold says.
"We already have the road-approved, legally compliant technology with which this vision can be realized - immediately available and retrofittable into any vehicle, such as the Tesla Model 3," says Arnold. His wish: "To drive - or rather be driven - through the streets of Berlin together with Elon Musk in a converted Tesla."