Driving in inclement weather is anything but easy for humans, and it’s equally tough for autonomous cars. It is sometimes unavoidable, however, which is why Google spinoff Waymo’s prototypes were introduced to snow for the first time this year. It’s also why electronics company Bosch is partnering with Foreca, a Finnish weather forecasting provider, on a predictive road-condition service intended to enhance the safety of driverless vehicles as they navigate icy bridges, rain-slick roads, and other hazards along their routes.
“Wet roads, snow, ice – with our predictive road-condition services, we alert to hazards before critical situations can develop,” Bosch management board member Dr. Dirk Hoheisel said in a statement. “We are helped here by the weather data provided by our partner Foreca. This means an automated vehicle will know exactly where it can drive autonomously, and how.”
The idea behind Bosch’s forecasting service is to help autonomous vehicles anticipate challenging road conditions and make adjustments accordingly, the company explained. If a car’s headed into a rainstorm, for example, it might slow its speed to prevent hydroplaning. And if a localized snow squall is on the horizon, the service might suggest an alternate route.
Bosch is taking a “multiphase” approach to the service rollout, with the goal of worldwide deployment in 2020. Initially, it’ll source Foreca’s global database of road-weather data to forecast conditions. But in the future, to improve the system’s accuracy, it’ll draw on real-time data — including temperature, road friction, the status of each individual wheel, and whether the windshield wipers are in use — gathered from autonomous and semiautonomous connected cars.
That data will make its way to the network Bosch cloud via automakers’ back-end servers. And as more vehicles join in, the forecasts will, in theory, become increasingly more precise.
“Combining the expertise of Foreca and Bosch will lead to a new era of road-condition forecasting. Unlike weather forecasts in the media, the Bosch road-condition services take multiple possible forecast scenarios into consideration,” Petri Marjava, Foreca’s sales director, said in a statement.
The collaboration with Foreca builds on Bosch’s self-driving ambitions. Just this year, the company created a new Connected Mobility Services division staffed with more than 600 employees, acquired B2B ridesharing startup Splitting Fares, and partnered with TomTom on mapping systems that’ll help vehicles see the road ahead. And earlier this month, it announced with German automaker Daimler that it had chosen Nvidia’s Drive Pegasus as its artificial intelligence (AI) computing platform of choice and that it’ll begin testing self-driving cars in California in the second half of 2019.