Iffy Infrastructure Tests Future of Self-Drivers in Spain

Bosch says its fully autonomous vehicle technology could be ready by 2025. Whether the required infrastructure, which will cost at least €3 billion ($3.4 billion), will be ready by then remains to be seen.

Jorge Palacios, Correspondent

February 8, 2016

2 Min Read
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is first autonomous car driving Spanish roads
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is first autonomous car driving Spanish roads.

MADRID ─ Investments of at least €3 billion ($3.4 billion) would be necessary for horizontal signs – painted or installed on the road surface – that Spain needs so autonomous cars can “read” them, according to Maria-Belén Aranda Colas, a Spanish engineer who oversees advanced development of autonomous vehicles for German supplier Robert Bosch.

In addition, Aranda Colas says another investment in intelligent infrastructure will be necessary to inform autonomous cars and help them anticipate diversions or road closures. Each year, additional money will be needed to maintain the horizontal road signs as well, she says.

Aranda Colas says Bosch’s autonomous-car technology could be ready for production by 2025. Such an autonomous car would be able to drive on highways. If the vehicle calls for the driver to take control, he would have 10 seconds to do so. If the driver takes no action, the car will park itself on the side of the road, she says.

With the high cost of the infrastructure, Aranda Colas expresses concern that there may not be enough roads to accommodate self-driving cars.

But she sees significant benefits in them, including reduction of accidents due to human errors, decreased fuel consumption (by up to 39%), fewer traffic jams and shorter waiting times at intersections.

“An 80% average improvement could be achieved in vehicle traffic, and drivers could recover nearly one hour which they lose each day driving their current cars,” Aranda Colas says.

Regarding the responsibility in case of an accident, she acknowledges it is problematic. But in the future, engineers say vehicles will be equipped with a black box compiling all the information necessary to define who is in control every moment – the driver or the computer.

Some 1,400 work hours are required to transform a conventional car into an autonomous one, with the addition of 50 new components and 1.3 km (0.8 miles) of additional wiring.

Aranda Colas recently gave a lecture at the Technical Superior School of Industrial Engineering in Madrid, titled “My Path to Automated Driving.”

She discussed how a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso became the first autonomous car tested in Spain, traveling 600 km (373 miles) on highways from PSA Peugeot Citroen’s plant northwest of Madrid.

Politicians and journalists were allowed to ride in the car at the beginning and end of the trip, and no data has been released regarding average speed, number of stops and amount of time in self-driving mode. PSA has four autonomous cars performing similar tests in Europe.

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