Its automatic transmissions are pretty good, how hard can automating the rest of the car be?
Self-driving cars have been receiving a lot of attention lately but mostly because they tend not to be very good at actually driving themselves. Developing, testing and then making the technology commercially viable is an extremely complex undertaking and even the world’s leading auto manufacturers are still trying to perfect the process.
According to Bloomberg, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, a German company that provides driveline and chassis technology for both cars and commercial vehicles, will invest $14-billion in electric and autonomous vehicle technology over the next five years.
This relatively new field is already teeming with established players like Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Ford, and Tesla, as well as numerous Chinese start-ups. ZF's arrival adds even more momentum to the industry’s shift to electric and self-driving vehicles.
The most logical point for electric vehicles to gain acceptance is in commercial applications such as delivery vehicles and this is where ZF’s first fully-electric autonomous vehicle will be targeted at. According to ZF, their van will be highly automated and able to navigate city centers on its own with the ability to recognize traffic lights and maneuver around obstacles such as double-parked cars.
“Our concept vehicle will be ready for series production during the next two years,” Chief Executive Officer Wolf-Henning Scheider said. “We’re in concrete discussions with several customers.” The van will initially be tested in the company’s hometown of Friedrichshafen and should take on similar autonomous designs from VW and Ford.
ZF has , in the car-parts industry for decades and their takeover of American auto parts manufacturer TRW Automotive in 2014 has made them one of the biggest in their field so we have high hopes for their foray into this new sector.