The Bosch Group continued its investments in R&D in 2018, focusing in areas including automated driving, electromobility, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Bosch’s research and development activities in the area of automated driving are aimed toward achieving accident-free mobility and follow two development paths. The first concerns driver assistance systems, which will enable partially automated driving in private vehicles (SAE Level 2 and 3 automation). The company expects to generate sales of €2 billion this year with driver assistance systems. The second development path will lead to driverless driving starting at the beginning of the next decade (SAE Level 4 and 5 automation). “Driverless driving will be a game changer for individual mobility. It will open the door to disruptive business models such as robotaxis and shuttle-based mobility,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Board of Management of Robert Bosch GmbH. Due to automation’s technical complexity, Denner views it as a future focal point of investment: “In the period up to 2022 alone, we expect our upfront investments to total 4 billion euros.”
Between 2015 and 2030, personal mobility will increase by 50%, according to ITF. Over the next 10 years, analysts expect the market for automated-driving hardware and software to be worth some $60 billion. By 2025, most of the 2.5 million on-demand shuttle buses around the world are expected to be driverless. Experts predict that by 2035, sales relating to shared mobility will reach nearly $160 billion dollars. Bosch says it will offer both technology and services for this form of mobility. The company says its ecosystem for mobility services already combines solutions and services for reservations, payment, parking, recharging, administration, maintenance, and infotainment.
In 2018, Bosch says it acquired 30 electromobility projects. By 2025, the company aims to increase its sales in this area tenfold, to a total of €5 billion. In China, Bosch says it will start production in 2019 of the e-axle, a compact powertrain solution for electric cars. A newly developed 48-volt battery went into mass production there a few weeks ago. As early as 2030, 20% of new cars worldwide are projected to be partly electrified with 48-volt systems.
As early as 2030, one in four new commercial vehicles worldwide—nearly one in three in China—are projected to be at least partly electrically powered. Bosch’s product portfolio for emissions-free goods transportation includes 36-volt power packs for cargo e-bikes, electric motors for light commercial vehicles like the German Post Office’s StreetScooters, e-axles for light and heavy vans, electrified axles for semitrailers, and, in the future, fuel-cell powertrains for 40-ton trucks. “Whether it’s partially electric, fully electric, battery-electric, or fuel cells, we are ready for the market,” Denner said.
In the future, Denner believes one core area of expertise will be the industrial application of artificial intelligence (AI). “By the middle of the next decade, we want all our products to be equipped with AI, or AI to have played a part in their development and manufacture. True, American and Chinese companies dominate consumer-industry AI,” Denner said, “but without domain expertise in traffic, manufacturing, or buildings, their potential will lag behind that of industrial AI.” Denner reported that Bosch has set ambitious goals for itself: “As an innovation leader, we want to master AI ourselves and join the global elite.” To this end, Bosch plans to quadruple the number of its in-house AI experts from 1,000 to 4,000 by 2021.
Associates at the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence are working on nearly 150 projects. One of these is the SoundSee sensor system. “The SoundSee algorithm applies machine learning to hear if something is broken,” Denner explained. This enables it to accurately predict machine breakdowns, which in turn brings down maintenance costs and boosts productivity. The SoundSee solution will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in the middle of the year. Bosch sees commercial applications for it in manufacturing, buildings, and automotive engineering. Another example of progress in AI is a multi-purpose camera for automated driving that combines image-processing algorithms with AI methods. The result is an intelligent camera for the car that can, for example, spot pedestrians and then immediately recognize and predict their behavior.