you do one or two laps and then you can correct mistakes or try out new parameters just a few metres away from the track,” says the developer enthusiastically.After a few fast laps, he clearly has as much adrenaline in his blood as a racing driver. Jokingly claiming to be a poor driver himself, Jonas only had to press a few buttons before the test drive and hold down a dead man's switch during the fast lap to make sure the prototype didn’t accidentally go out on the track all by himself.
Engaging with colleagues and scientists
In addition to the immediate proximity of theory and practice, Jonas also attaches importance to being able to engage with colleagues working on other projects here in Portimao. By way of additional support, the Volkswagen engineers have brought in scientists from Stanford University and Technical University Darmstadt to help them. “If you're stuck with a problem, you can easily get input from your colleagues here,” says Jonas enthusiastically. A chat over a grilled sausage – which the garage foreman puts on the barbecue at lunchtime – is often much more helpful than a lengthy meeting in the office.
Although the vision of the autonomous car hovers over the entire convention, much of what the engineers are investigating here with their self-driving prototypes will also benefit drivers of conventional cars. One of the engineers compares it to the Moon landing: just because it became possible to travel to the Moon 50 years ago, it doesn’t mean we go there every week. However, we still benefit from the Moon landing to this day – not least because Nasa technology gave us the Teflon pan, for example. The automotive industry’s equivalent of a non-stick coating is safety. A whole range of developments that emerge on the way to creating the self-driving car are also capable of increasing safety in conventional vehicles, helping to approach the ultimate vision of zero road fatalities. If the car notices that the tyres have worn down, for example, it can not only adapt its autonomous driving strategy but also warn the driver and request a visit to the garage.