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Porsche is developing cars that can drive themselves into the workshop to make maintenance faster and more efficient, the German company has announced.

The sports car manufacturer is working with Berlin-based start-up Kopernikus Automotive to create a testing ground at its base in Ludwigsburg, just north of Stuttgart. There, the two firms will collaborate to test autonomous technology that allows cars to drive themselves from the car park to the workshop, before being driven on to the inspection ramp remotely.

According to Porsche, the whole process will be initiated by a vehicle technician, who would use a tablet to summon the car and position it precisely on the ramp. Once the work has been completed, the car can be lowered and driven back to the car park in readiness for collection by the customer.

The company claims the technology would help service centers operate more efficiently, without the need for technicians to spend time fetching and returning vehicles. It plans to implement the test site within the next few months, before presenting its findings next year.

“Autonomous driving will revolutionise our road traffic in just a few years,” said Alexander Haas, project manager for automated driving at the Porsche workshop. “However, we can already use the technological possibilities available today to make work processes even more effective and efficient.”

However, before the company can fully develop its autonomous system, it must first build its development workshop on a computer, allowing it to create an artificial network that will be able to guide the cars safely to the desired locations. The AI system will then drive more than one million virtual miles, taking computer-generated cars to and from the digital workshop before it is used in the real world.

During the real-world tests, Porsche says it will implement “extensive measures to guarantee safety”, including the imposition of a 4-mph (6-kph) speed limit and a human driver ready to take the controls if the system fails.

At the end of the process, Porsche will collate feedback from experts in both autonomous vehicles and vehicle aftersales to develop the system further.

“Our team will experience the use of autonomous driving in the workshop in test operation, and we want to learn from the team’s feedback,” said Thomas Eckert, head of product influencing in aftersales.

The development is the latest part of Porsche’s autonomous driving plans, although the company has already said its vehicles will retain their capacity to be driven by a human, even if they feature advanced autonomous technology. Back in 2017, Lutz Meschke, vice-president of the company’s executive board, said Porsche vehicles would always be cars “you will want – and be able – to drive yourself.”

Source: Porsche

Gallery: Porsche tests cars that drive themselves around workshops

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Porsche tests the use of autonomous driving in the workshop

Using a tablet to access the lifting platform: Porsche tests autonomous driving in the company’s own workshop. The test project is part of a collaboration in the context of the Startup Autobahn innovation platform, and is scheduled for completion in mid-2019.

This project involves Porsche working with start-up “Kopernikus Automotive” to install a test field on the company’s premises in Ludwigsburg. The young company from Berlin specialises in technology for self-driven cars, and the aim of the joint project is to enable vehicles to drive from their parking space to the lifting platform and back again, fully autonomously. It is intended that mechanics will be able to manoeuvre the sports cars to the correct position in the workshop, quickly and automatically, using a tablet.

The technology shall provide vehicle orientation and independently detect objects

“Autonomous driving will revolutionise our road traffic in just a few years. However, we can already use the technological possibilities available today to make work processes even more effective and efficient,” comments Alexander Haas, Project Manager for Automated Driving at the Porsche workshop. The project will be implemented within 100 days by experts from the fields of highly automated and assisted driving as well as aftersales technology, together with Kopernikus Automotive; the team will present the results at the Startup Autobahn “Expo Day” in Stuttgart’s Wagenhallen on February 21.  

A virtual test run of approximately one million simulated test kilometres

Before the vehicles are driven into the workshop truly autonomously, the first step is to create the test site including workshop environment as a virtual representation, which is used to train an artificial neural network. It drives more than one million virtual test kilometres and learns independently on the basis of real framework data. Finally, the use case is tested under real conditions. “Our team will experience the use of autonomous driving in the workshop in test operation, and we want to learn from the team’s feedback,” comments Thomas Eckert, Head of Product Influencing in Aftersales.

The aim is to allow vehicles to drive autonomously from their parking lot to the lifting platform

The intention is that AI technology will then not only handle vehicle orientation, but also independently identify and localise objects, and plan paths. Extensive measures will be implemented to guarantee safety in the practical implementation stage of the test run, including a speed limit of seven kilometres per hour and the additional use of a human driver.

About Startup Autobahn

Porsche has been a partner in the Startup Autobahn innovation platform initiated since 2017, with the aim of bringing innovative start-ups from all over the world to Stuttgart with their ideas. Several companies have joined forces, including Porsche, Daimler, the University of Stuttgart, Arena 2036, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, DXC Technology, ZF Friedrichshafen and BASF, among others. Under the umbrella of Startup Autobahn, they collaborate with start-ups in specific pilot projects that run over a period of 100 days. Porsche has implemented around 50 projects as part of Startup Autobahn over the past two years, and around a third of results have been incorporated into the series development process.

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