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“A car that drives by itself” – a big dream, and a vision that could become reality in the coming years. This isn’t something that will happen overnight, more like bit by bit, as each step of the journey gradually comes true. Assistance systems, which are already practically all around us, are using the first autonomous driving functions. Algorithms, which are capable of merging different data from sensors to form pictures of vehicles and can assess their immediate environment, are becoming more and more reliable. And this makes truly autonomous forms of mobility all the more plausible.

The focus of attention is turning increasingly to communication between humans and machines: How can a self-driving vehicle express the fact that it’s safe for me to cross the street in front of it? Many of our colleagues are working with industrial partners on research and development in this fascinating field. I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that the “auto-mobile” is about to be re-invented.

But one thing we mustn’t lose sight of is that “autonomous vehicles” are not just about automotive technology. It’s important to develop suitable operational infrastructure, including so-called Car2X communication. This will involve looking into and adapting potential business models. Will people actually want to own their own self-driving vehicles or will this all, almost in passing, somehow result in ownership scenarios based on groups of users? And last but not least, these developments raise important legal issues: Who is responsible if one of these vehicles does something wrong?

Dear readers, we’re used to driving our own cars and sitting at the steering wheel ourselves. Our cities and transportation infrastructures are set up this way; entire branches of industry depend on this for their existence. The sweeping transformation that will be made possible by self-driving vehicles and other forms of autonomous transportation cannot and should not be rushed. One thing that still needs to happen is for all sections of society as a whole to discuss and understand these new formats of technology – as well as the opportunities and threats they entail. So let’s start with a small step: In this edition, Steinbeis experts take a detailed look at the topic of autonomous mobility. They do this by presenting the projects they are working on and adopting a position on key questions of our time. I wish you a fascinating read!

With kind regards,
Prof. Dr. Peter Neugebauer

Prof. Dr. Peter Neugebauer

We regret to announce that Prof. Dr. Peter Neugebauer passed away shortly after writing this editorial in April 2020. We would like to express our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Prof. Dr. Peter Neugebauer was in charge of the Steinbeis Transfer Centers for Automotive Testing and Automotive Engineering at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, where he worked in a variety of fields related to vehicle diagnostics, electronics development and testing, and embedded software. He was also managing director of the Institute of Energy Efficient Mobility at the university and professor of vehicle electronics.

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