A conversation with Professor Dr. Peter Neugebauer, Director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Automotive Testing and Professor for Vehicle Electronics at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences
How can a vehicle be protected from cyber-attacks? What will travel and transportation be like in the future? These are the types of questions examined by Professor Dr. Peter Neugebauer at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Automotive Testing. The sustainability aspect of mobility also plays an important role in his research. He spoke with TRANSFER about these mobility questions – and more.
Professor Neugebauer, the topic of modern travel has many different facets. What aspects are particularly interesting and important to you?
At Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, our Institute for Energyefficient Mobility is currently focusing on two aspects of modern travel solutions: vehicle security and the logistics of urban freight transportation. When I say “vehicle security,” I’m talking about data and system security – like the question of how well the electronic systems in a vehicle are protected against cyber-attacks by hackers. The BroadRReach standard will soon be bringing Ethernet technology into vehicles. We’ve all heard about the many cyber-attacks targeting the internet which is also based on Ethernet technology. Our research is looking at how we can help prevent similar attacks on vehicles. And then we are also studying urban freight logistics – how we can make the final 100 meters of the route “smarter” in the future. The growing popularity of online shopping means that delivery traffic is increasing as well. We are examining how this delivery traffic can be consolidated in typical neighborhoods and reduced to a minimum.
Sustainable travel is becoming more important than ever. How can the mobility solution you’ve described contribute to sustainability?
If you consolidate freight delivery for an entire residential area into a single location – we call this a “hub” – different parcel services don’t have to go to each house, they can take all their packages to the hub. From there the packages can be delivered by automated vehicles based on the preferences of the recipients. The packaging waste also leaves the neighborhood via the hub – it’s collected there for pick-up by the waste disposal company. Having fewer vehicles on the road cuts down on the noise, particulates, and exhaust fumes in the residential area. This project – efeuCampus – is funded by the European Union and has been recognized as a flagship project by the government of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
It seems like digital solutions touch every aspect of our lives. What sort of changes has it already brought to transportation, and what changes are still to come?
Besides technical changes, there have certainly also been changes in our personal behavior, and of course there are infrastructure aspects as well. We don’t think twice anymore about using the internet to check on traffic conditions, look up train and bus schedules, compare gas prices, or find out what we shouldn’t miss at our next vacation destination. Just a few years ago, who would have thought that many of us would carry a tiny computer with us everywhere we go – in the form of a tablet or a smartphone – and be connected with the entire world? And when it comes to mobility, this opens up completely new opportunities for services related to travel or the vehicle itself.
I think that the next big changes will be related to the Internet of Things. Traffic signs and routing systems will communicate with our vehicles and provide early information about traffic jams, construction zones, or dangerous traffic conditions. This will make driving safer, while at the same time paving the way for self-driving vehicles. But for a traffic light to communicate a red signal to my car, the light will have to be equipped with additional smart electronics. I don’t know how many traffic lights there are in Germany – but enough that retrofitting all of them would be a kind of economic stimulus package in and of itself. We running automated driving tests in the Karlsruhe region in the coming months and we’ll start working with our partners to make the traffic infrastructure smarter.
The transportation industry also reflects the convergence of current changes in society with new developments in technology. In light of this, what do you think the future of industrial mobility will look like?
Looking at my students, I see that they view travel in a far more rational manner than is often the case in my generation. They are focused on getting from A to B and using time as effectively as possible. In a city like Karlsruhe, this often means that bicycles play a greater role than cars. Looking forward, this leads me to conclude that car ownership will become less and less important. I think that multimodal transportation solutions – meaning different parts of a route are travelled using different modes of transport – are growing more and more important. The same applies to car-sharing concepts. Today it is already significantly more cost-effective to just borrow a car when you need it instead of owning one yourself. Self-driving vehicles are already here – they are standard equipment in industrial facilities, production plants, and warehouses. They are mostly used to move commodities and goods. From this starting point, they will start appearing more and more in our daily lives – just think of automated vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers. The first vehicles without human drivers are already being used to transport passengers; in most cases we are talking about rail vehicles like the ones used to take people from terminal to terminal in airports. So the technology and the experience are already there – and in all likelihood, in a few years we’ll see the first fully self-driving vehicles on our streets.
Prof. Dr. Peter Neugebauer is Professor for Vehicle Electronics and Director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Automotive Testing at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences. The Center provides set up and operation of Hardware in the Loop (HiL) test benches, design and construction of diagnostic systems, and development of software, test routines, and programs for electronic control units (ECUs).