Self driving vans by 2030
Get into your motorhome, lean back and let the vehicle do the driving! Sleep, relax or even work until you reach your destination. This is the future of caravanning. The Erwin Hymer Group is already working intensively on the further development of self-driving vehicles and presented a current research project carried out by its North American brand Roadtrek at the Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017.
The motorhome industry is growing and is therefore a fertile ground for new developments. Currently, the development teams of the Erwin Hymer Group North America are intensively addressing the issue of self-driving vehicles. What sounded like a utopian vision only a few years ago will soon be reality: Caravanning without a driver. The first fully self-driving motorhomes should be available from 2030 onwards.
Some first autopilot features already
The Erwin Hymer Group was the first company in the world to be permitted by the Canadian government to try out self-driving motorhomes on public roads. The initial research on test tracks has now been followed by first tests on public roads. Drivers can relax and let go of the wheel, yet still monitor their vehicle at all times. Experts have defined five levels of autonomous driving. The three autonomous driving levels that have already reached market maturity are referred to as partial automation, i.e. driving with the aid of driver assistance systems such as automatic distance control, lane departure warning and traffic jam assistance systems, as well as some first autopilot features such as automatic parking. The technology required for levels four and five is currently being tested. Level four includes systems such as driverless automated city busses or driving with the assistance of an autopilot system on the motorway. Driving becomes fully automated at level five. At this level, the driver simply has to set the destination, and the system will then automatically deal with all traffic situations throughout the entire journey. These vehicles will therefore be truly "driverless". Roadtrek's test vehicles are already capable of carrying out individual level four and five manoeuvres.
Complete relaxation rather than driving
Jörg Reithmeier, member of the Erwin Hymer Group executive board, says: "We believe that all innovations should primarily focus on people. Automated driving gives people something very important: Time that they can then invest in other meaningful activities instead of driving. This makes caravanning considerably more relaxing, as the driver starts to unwind the moment they get into their motorhome." The vehicle must be able to recognise its surroundings, for example the road, moving objects, traffic signs and traffic lights, for the autopilot to work in a way that is safe and reliable. The motorhome collects all the data it needs with the aid of map services, radar systems, camera systems, sensors and night vision systems. The research aims to combine all of this data in one system in order to then process it in real time via Cloud-based comparison.
An Erwin Hymer Group Innovation Lab project
The project is being realised in collaboration with the Erwin Hymer Group Innovation Lab, an open network platform for innovation. Here, ten students from the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research are contributing to the development of a self-driving motorhome under the supervision of managing director Ross McKenzie. In turn, they attend university for three months or carry out practical on-site research with the manufacturer. "Both sides benefit from the collaboration with the Erwin Hymer Group North America: Our research platform and the company's longstanding development and engineering expertise complement each other perfectly," says Ross McKenzie.
Fully automated driving will dramatically change the way people travel and use mobile living spaces. The motorhome becomes the chauffeur. A new era is about to begin – the era of the passenger!