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Research on automation

Automation for safety, efficiency, and stress reduction

Reliable, safe, and sustainable: Bosch Research's research on robotics, automated driving, and factory automation.

The picture shows the “automation” research field at Bosch Research. A robot gripper arm is positioned in the middle as the large main symbol. It is surrounded by other symbols which represent the various aspects of automation such as a robot, a production system with a WLAN symbol and other symbols such as intelligent sensors which form the basis for automation.

The term “automation” comes from the Greek word “automatos” which roughly means “moving itself”. At Bosch Research, we have made this idea a key part of our research and develop systems which are capable of acting independently.

Production and collaborative robots already play a supporting role in industrial manufacturing, while household robots are making our day-to-day lives easier. But the autonomous systems that we develop at Bosch go even further: Based on the data that are fed into them, they learn from us, think, act and react to unforeseen changes in their environment — both changes in routine processes and interactions with people. People and machines work hand in hand here.

When it comes to automation on the road — automated driving — Bosch Research is working on automated "perception" through sensors, object recognition and localization along with algorithms for intelligent driving functions.

Automation for the factory of the future

Picture of a so-called test line showing several test stations on the left and right and an AI Platform Plant coordinator in the middle.
Automation in Bosch manufacturing at the Bamberg site in Germany.

The increasing automation of manufacturing represents major technical and social progress. It allows ever safer, more efficient working processes which have less of an impact on both people and the environment. That is why the automation of production steps and systems through more adaptable machines is a central starting point for research at Bosch Research. The aim is to shape Industry 4.0 so that it can cope with the current and future challenges posed by sustainability requirements, increasingly uncertain supply chains and the dwindling number of skilled workers.

Flexible industrial automation takes into account the gradual digitalization of production and ensures reliable operation as part of a network. The long-standing trend of linking software particularly closely to a single specific piece of hardware is coming to an end, thus paving the way for more flexible automation. In the future, intelligent software in conjunction with highly flexible hardware will allow software-defined manufacturing. This will meet demand for rapidly changeable production lines and supply chain connectivity — enabling a rapid and flexible response to changing product and market requirements as well as fluctuating supply capacities. Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in production, production data, processes and results can also be analyzed quickly, thus allowing precise control of production processes.

Algorithms as the basis for automated driving and robotics

Automated driving is another important area of research at Bosch Research. Cars of the future will also serve as mobile living and work rooms. In the area of commercial vehicles, automation will allow more efficient transport processes and improved safety. These automated systems are already making logistics processes more efficient, and in the foreseeable future they will fundamentally change the last mile delivery process. Our research into automated driving focuses on continuously improving automated “perception” through sensors, mapping and the localization of objects for intelligent driving functions. These are designed to support and reduce the burden on people when driving or to enable fully automated vehicles to transport people and goods to their destination without any human intervention. We are also developing algorithms which can plan the optimum path (trajectory) for autonomous vehicles — even in complex and unclear scenarios. We are thus making mobility in the future even more efficient, sustainable and climate-friendly.

View of the road from an automated vehicle. Pedestrians, vehicles, and the roadway are marked on the screen in the vehicle.
The next level: the automated vehicle recognizes and marks vehicles, pedestrians and lane boundaries on the screen.

Another area of research within automation is robotics. Robots of the future will work hand in hand with people, take over more and more tasks and thus relieve the burden on personnel. One important area of application is household robotics; this includes for example lawnmower and vacuum cleaner robots. Robots play an important role not only in the home but also in industry, where they relieve workers of strenuous or monotonous tasks, in production itself and increasingly in logistics too. Through the use of AI, robots will be able to interact more safely, autonomously and intuitively with their human counterparts.

With autonomous cars and robots, the aim is to ensure that they move purposefully and safely in spaces and can interact with their environment. Bosch Research is putting in place the technological basis for both areas of application. In both cases, the goal is to record and understand the environment as fully as possible, for example using camera and LiDAR-based object recognition and algorithms to create three-dimensional maps of the environment. On this basis, autonomous vehicles and robots can then plan and execute safe movements and actions.

“Eyes” and “ears” open for automation

Image of an intelligent sensor mounted on a test vehicle that can detect, for example, hidden emergency vehicles. Bosch Research conducts research into intelligent sensors and the human-machine interface (HMI).
Automation does not work without sensors. With the help of such an intelligent sensor, concealed emergency vehicles (e.g., at an intersection in the city) can be detected.

Automation does not work without sensors. They are the hardware basis for ensuring that the right data can be collected at the right time and in appropriate quality and processed by computers. These data allow actuator systems to function and at the same time are the foundations for the use of AI in automation.

If systems are to interact with their environment in a (partially) automated way, they must be able to recognize their environment and users reliably (Sense), process the information they receive (Compute/Think), and translate it into an action (Act). Bosch Research is therefore researching intelligent sensors and technologies for the human-machine interface (HMI). The aim is to solve the aforementioned Sense, Think and Act tasks in an energy-saving, safe, real-time and user-friendly manner.

With innovative sensor solutions, we record the physical environment and transfer this information to the digital, virtual world of the machine. Our activities include MEMS sensors, for example to record acceleration and the slightest movements, and environmental sensors such as cameras, radar or LiDAR. At the same time, we are working on actuator solutions, for example MEMS loudspeakers or ultrasound actuators. Data are processed using classic and, increasingly, AI algorithms. This serves to improve the behavior of automated systems in all product areas. Another focus of our work is the further development of “hardware-software codesign” methods, i.e., tailoring AI algorithms to the available computing hardware in order to minimize the use of space and power consumption. Innovative HMI technologies can be found at the interface to the user. These include solutions for vehicle interiors and the development of novel information systems such as Bosch Smartglasses which use Bosch Light Drive technology to project important information straight onto the human retina.

Automation systems can be used in a very wide range of areas. But the basic technologies behind this far-reaching trend produce synergy effects in real life. Bosch Research is developing the automated products, systems and components of the future as a partner to other Bosch business units and, in many cases, with universities, research institutions and other companies.

Our research on automation

Image of Bosch Research test vehicles for autonomous driving on the test track in Renningen, Germany.

Research on automated driving

Automated vehicles are a key part of the mobility of the future. To ensure that they are reliable, safe and efficient, Bosch Research is developing the necessary technologies for all levels of automation: From assistance systems and partially automated processes to components for fully automated vehicles. Artificial intelligence also plays a role here.

The picture shows Bosch Research’s and Bosch Rexroth’s Smart Item Picking system in an industrial environment. The robotic arm picks up an object from the conveyor belt.

Research on robotics

In the future, robots will play an increasingly important role in our work and our day-to-day lives. They already support efficient production processes. Through our research, we are enabling robots in the Factory of the Future to further relieve the burden on workers and to recognize and classify objects. Motion planning algorithms for collaborative robots developed by Bosch Research allow close cooperation between humans and machines.

Employee holds a tablet in an industry 4.0 factory together with other employees.

Research on industrial automation

In order to produce smaller quantities of very different products quickly and cost-effectively in industrial manufacturing, production plants will need to be more flexible in the future. At Bosch Research, we are developing software for the Factory of the Future, versatile production systems and solutions for using artificial intelligence in production.

A researcher at Bosch Research researches and develops intelligent sensors in the laboratory.

Research on intelligent sensors and HMI technologies

Automated technologies require a seamless connection between the physical and virtual worlds, especially at the human-machine interface. At Bosch Research, we are researching and developing intelligent sensors such as MEMS and quantum sensors as well as human-machine interfaces (HMI).

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