DETROIT -- Robert Bosch says it will start producing an automatic parking system -- a step toward autonomous driving -- in 2015 for a customer it did not identify.
Dirk Hoheisel, a member of Bosch's management board, said last week that fully autonomous vehicles are expected in the next decade. He spoke at SAE International's World Congress here.
Bosch's parking assist maneuvers the vehicle into or out of tight parking spaces in a garage with no one at the wheel. The motorist can get out of the vehicle, then start the parking maneuver by pressing a button on a smartphone or key fob.
To halt the maneuver, the motorist takes his finger off the button. The system also works for parallel parking.
Hoheisel told Automotive News that automated parking is the next logical step for autonomous vehicles.
"You can learn a lot of things about low-speed maneuvering" with parking assist, Hoheisel said. The system uses ultrasonic sensors and cameras to track the car's movements.
The next step -- lane-changing maneuvers on the highway -- probably will require three types of sensors, most likely cameras, radar and laser, he said.
Vehicles also would use data from the cloud, information stored outside the vehicle on Internet computers, that would offer updates about upcoming road construction, traffic conditions and other variables.
The communications link from the cloud to the vehicle is crucial, Hoheisel noted. Updates about road conditions must be "very, very fresh data."
Hoheisel said Bosch is working on an automated lane-changing system that should be ready for sale by the end of the decade. "I think this will be the next big thing," Hoheisel said. "We have prototypes that can do this."
But even if the technology is proved reliable, automakers still must sort out liability issues with government, the insurance industry and suppliers.
In Europe, for example, the Vienna Convention mandates that the motorist remain in charge of the vehicle at all times. That's why Bosch's parking assist feature will have an "interrupt" function on the key fob that will allow the motorist to remain in control -- even if he or she is standing outside the car.
Hoheisel joked, "The driver has to push a button, and if you see your neighbor's cat, you can remove your finger."