Innovation has always been central to the history of Porsche, which has been able to reinvent itself several times over its 70-year history. The most recent change is that concerning electric mobility, but in Zuffenhausen, innovating is the rule and the CEO Oliver Blume had already explained it several years ago saying that “An innovation program does not invest in patents or inventions. It invests in people” . In other words, it means focusing on the most innovative ideas, regardless of their origin. Thus, in the offices of the German company, collaboration between roles and departments is encouraged, to allow employees to work creatively, letting the most avant-garde thoughts germinate. And the scheme works, because every year ideas arrive from a hundred departments and individual employees, taking into account that to be considered innovative, an idea must satisfy three fundamental requirements: to be unprecedented and unique, economically feasible and to entail a significant advantage for the clients.
To bring ideas to life quickly, each of the seven departments of Porsche AG and Porsche Digital GmbH has one or two innovation managers. In addition, the German company collaborates with start-ups and universities and annually allocates over 150 million euros for investments in emerging companies. As a result, it has at times gone into entirely new areas, such as eFuel. Autonomous driving is another key sector: in China, the United States and Germany – the three biggest markets for Porsche – about a quarter of customers would buy a car that can drive on its own in specific situations. The current problem is that sensor technology and data processing criteria are so complex that they far exceed the capabilities of conventional development and testing methods based on real test cycles.
According to American scientists at the RAND Corporation, an autonomous vehicle would have to travel hundreds of millions – in some cases hundreds of billions – of miles to test individual systems and their interaction. It would take 11 billion miles to reduce the risk of a fatal accident caused by autonomous driving compared to human driving by 20%. Driving one hundred experimental cars at an average speed of 40km / h for 24 hours a day, seven days a week would take about five centuries. Fortunately, many test kilometers can be covered in the laboratory. Thus Porsche Engineering (controlled by Porsche AG) has begun to create the Virtual ADAS Testing Center (PEVATeC), a laboratory where you can create virtual worlds that contemplate all situations that are significant for road traffic.
Situations that will then be used as test cases for the algorithms and sensors of the driving assistance systems. Driving tests in a simulated context allow you to save time and money, but also to replicate critical situations taken from real scenarios, modifying them as needed. Digitally reproduced objects such as streets, house walls and vehicles must have the same characteristics as real ones to provide realistic inputs to camera, lidar, radar and ultrasound systems. For this Porsche Engineering uses the game engines of video games to virtually develop and test automated driving functions. These tests can be repeated as often as necessary and take less time than conventional ones. In this way, it should take much less than five centuries to see autonomous driving on roads around the world.