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Combining knowledge and expertise leads to a transformation of the culture of collaboration and innovation. Professor Ulrich Weinberg of the School of Design Thinking at Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam talks about paths towards new ways of thinking and the ever-increasing opportunities for development.

Professor Weinberg, Archimedes of Syracuse is said to have shouted “Eureka – I have found it!” after discovering Archimedes’ Principle while sitting in his bathtub. Some 2,000 years later, how much do we still rely on lone geniuses having flashes of inspiration in order to produce breakthrough innovations?

Prof. Ulrich Weinberg: There are still ingenious individuals who move society forward with their radical ideas, which benefits us all. But nowadays, we also have a whole other set of tools and networking opportunities available to us that Archimedes did not. These enable us to work together in international teams in a way that extends beyond borders and continents. In doing so, we can bring together various areas of expertise and find solutions that someone on their own would not be able to manage as quickly or with such wide-ranging perspectives. The potential offered by collaboration in teams needs to be exploited much more than it is at present.

Forschung, Wissenschaft, Zukunft, Lernen, Studieren, Mann, Postit, Zuhoeren, Fortschritt, Blick, Intelligenz, EDAG

What is the best way to harness this potential?

Prof. Weinberg: We always need the knowledge of experts and well-trained engineers. If I had to have an operation on my knee, I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable if the medical team all knew a great deal about operations but none of them had ever picked up a scalpel before. I would far rather find myself in the hands of an experienced surgeon. In other words, we still need the experience and specialist knowledge of individuals.

What makes this type of new thinking different from traditional approaches to knowledge?

Prof. Weinberg: Conventional linear thinking has had its day when it comes to digitisation. In engineering, it is not particularly effective to execute a rigid five-year plan with ten milestones. There are now so many disparate influencing factors and interdependencies also contributing to the pressure for digital change – for example in material development, modified process architectures or new energy systems. All of these help to accelerate the process significantly. So, it no longer makes sense just to keep following a linear pattern. It’s much more important for us to initiate an agile process involving iterative loops, thus making dynamic engineering possible while also allowing scope for mistakes and recalibration.

How can that be done?

Prof. Weinberg: Anyone aiming to innovate should not start by looking at what is technically possible, but should first of all ask themselves for whom and what purpose a new product is to be developed. Innovations need to make sense for their users, otherwise they will be superfluous at best. Therefore, unlike many approaches in science and practice, the design thinking process is firmly centred on user needs and requirements, as well as user-oriented invention. We look at the problem through the user’s eyes, thus taking on the role of the person who will actually use the end product.

Coming out of silos, getting to grips with the unknown – what do developers need to adapt nowadays to achieve an innovative advantage? Or to put it another way, what should they be capable of doing?

Prof. Weinberg: When it comes to innovation, incorporating cultural diversity into one’s thinking is also always really important. Specifically, this means being able to speak several languages well and feeling confident in other cultural environments in which there are different ways of thinking, speaking, working and living. This calls for a very open attitude and a huge willingness to learn, not only during the training stages but everywhere at all times.

Personal profile
Prof. Ulrich Weinberg has been head of the School of Design Thinking at Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam since 2007. He is also a co-founder and honorary president of the WeQ Foundation and the Global Design Thinking Alliance. In his book “Network Thinking – Beyond Brockhaus Thinking” he calls for radical new ways of thinking in education and business.

Forschung, Wissenschaft, Zukunft, Lernen, Studieren, Mann, Postit, Zuhoeren, Fortschritt, Blick, Intelligenz, EDAG, Group, Idee, Zeichnung, Teamwork, Success, Konzept, Innovation, Frau, Diskussion
Forschung, Wissenschaft, Zukunft, Fortschritt, Entwicklung, Prozess, Entwicklungsprozess, collectivio, Ingenieur, Technik, EDAG, Group, Schwarm, Intelligenz, Autonom, Fahrzeug, Auto, Kollektiv, Konzept

Implementing tomorrow’s development processes today: with #collectivio and knowledge from the Internet, EDAG has successfully implemented the first live engineering project in automotive history. The result is an engineering revolution: the swarm-intelligent autonomous vehicle as a collective concept.

No more traffic congestion, no more endless searching for a parking space – and air so clean that nobody mentions driving bans anymore. “In the city of tomorrow, there are no longer any private modes of transport as we know them today, beyond cyclists and pedestrians. Mobility will become more important than owning a car,” says Johannes Barckmann, director of design at independent engineering company EDAG. The cars that travel on the roads will be part of a large transport system, guided by swarm intelligence.

EDAG, Group, Messe, Stand, Unternehmen, Leute, Schwarm, Talk, Gespraech, Praesentation, Fotograf, Kollektiv

Transport will be organised like an ant colony. These tiny creatures carry out complex logistical tasks in the natural world without any central control. “The cars of the future will move through the city’s streets in exactly this way. Traffic lights will not be needed and there will be no more traffic congestion,” predicts Barckmann.

The Internet has made this type of swarm intelligence possible. Consumers come together spontaneously to exchange information or goods. They give free rein to their enthusiasm or their protests. Managers in companies have to accept this and rethink their position. Mistakes are difficult to hide. Nowadays people decide for themselves what is best for them and when, how and where. Decisions are made collectively without anyone taking the lead. The top-down principle gives way to a bottom-up approach.

This changes the development of vehicles and business models. “New ways of thinking and acting are required for the mobility of the future,” says Johannes Barckmann. It will be difficult to win users over in future with existing methods. He adds that the speed with which technologies and social trends are changing has increased rapidly. In a time when a new and better mobile phone is launched every year, cars quickly seem outdated. For Barckmann, this indicates a clear to-do list for the industry: “Development cycles need to be shorter. The future of engineering is interactive, democratic and fast.”

EDAG, Group, Messe, Stand, Unternehmen, Leute, Schwarm, Talk, Gespraech, Praesentation, Kollektiv, Kollegen, Lachen, Laecheln, Diskussion
EDAG, Automotive, Brand, Contest, IAA 2017, Produktdesign, Markenkommunikation, Form, Formgebung, collectivio, Projekt, Preis, Auszeichnung

Two years ago, at the IAA motor show in Frankfurt, EDAG initiated the first live development of a vehicle – with the help of the intelligence of the masses. Six EDAG specialists from the fields of design, vehicle architecture, graphical user interfaces (HMI), app development, business cases and virtual reality worked together with numerous participants from a range of technical backgrounds from the Internet to develop the visionary mobility concept #collectivio. “Our vision was to develop an intelligent, autonomous swarm vehicle with the involvement of an open collective network of people. This vehicle would move around the city of the future to complete various tasks independently, similar to the way blood circulates around the body,” explains Barckmann.

Anyone wanting to get involved could participate directly in the development of the vehicle via social media. The team of developers received more than 1,000 suggestions and contributions during the motor show. No ideas were off limits. “Around 20 per cent of the contributions were of a quality that made them at least worth thinking about,” says Barckmann, summarising the result of the experiment.

EDAG, Automotive, Brand, Contest, IAA 2017, Produktdesign, Markenkommunikation, Form, Formgebung, collectivio, Projekt, Praesentation, Design, Group, Gruen

In the case of #collectivio, it was clear after three days what the design of the car would look like. “One of the most important points is the interaction between human and machine. This ideally needs to be as intuitive and straightforward as possible,” says Barckmann, summing up one of the community’s demands. Human-machine communication also includes car-to-car communication, i.e. the Internet of Things. Networked vehicles are capable of helping each other. For example, if a #collectivio sees a passenger waving at it at the side of the road but is already occupied or has another job to do, it passes the journey request on straight away to available cars in the immediate vicinity.

The conclusion reached after the live engineering project was that there are many visions of what mobility will look like in the future. Barckmann says: “Even though the #collectivio started out as an experiment, it convincingly demonstrated what kind of innovative methodological and conceptual approaches are necessary and possible for the mobility of the future.”

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D

Computer systems in vehicles are still there to provide assistance to drivers, but increasingly they are also taking over at the wheel themselves in the form of artificial intelligence. EDAG is developing innovative software in this field at its sites in Ulm and Lindau. The work of the specialist developers involves dealing with probabilities, self-learning algorithms and, frequently, moral issues.

The work of many software developers never actually leaves the virtual world. Their lines of programming code, written on a computer, often only trigger actions on a screen. But that is not the case when Alexander Hirschle and his team take to their keyboards. The code they are working on today will be able to move one or two tonnes of steel tomorrow – in a very real sense in the analogue world. “That’s what makes my job so incredibly exciting,” says the engineer.

Hirschle is in charge of EDAG’s sites in Ulm and Lindau, where a total of 40 software developers are busy working on self-driving cars or, more precisely, their software. The vehicles need to learn to recognise their surroundings, interpret them and make informed decisions depending on the situation. It is a daunting task – and if it is achieved, it won’t only transform the automotive industry.

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Fortschritt, Forschung, Punkte, Berge, Dynamisch, 3D

“Self-driving cars will make mobility possible for everyone,” says Alexander Hirschle. “Young or old, poor or rich – we’ll all be chauffeured around.” However, there is still a long way to go before then. Alexander Hirschle does not dare to predict when the technology might be ready for the market. “I hope I’ll still be around to see it,” says the 32-year-old. His team is currently working with experts from a major automotive supplier to develop algorithms that are initially designed to make semi-autonomous driving possible. This means that a computer takes the wheel for long periods of time, but the human driver needs to be able to intervene at any point.

This precursor to autonomous driving is fascinating for experts and non-experts alike. “It’s a strange feeling at first to rely completely on software when you’re in the car,” says Jacek Burger, who manages the artificial intelligence (AI) division at EDAG in Lindau. Many times, Burger has sat with his laptop on the passenger seat during test drives on routes in Germany, Italy and Spain so he can monitor how well the algorithms devised in the office actually perform in practice.

“It’s similar to chess: you’re trying to predict someone else’s next move,” explains Alexander Hirschle. “But in our case, we need to be absolutely sure before we make each move.” To ensure this, automated cars have a wealth of hardware on board. In addition to cameras, they use radar and laser systems to capture data on the surrounding environment. But even though all these sensors provide the same information in optimum conditions, in practice the individual technologies frequently have their limits. For example, cameras have problems with backlit conditions, lasers fail quickly when they encounter reflective surfaces and radar systems simply see right through plastic.

Assistance systems also still function separately from one another. The challenge now is to pool the data and process it centrally. As well as powerful control hardware, which is being developed at the EDAG sites in Regensburg and Fulda as well as other places, this also requires the right software. “The more information from sensors that we can obtain and amalgamate, the more precise the calculations are,” says Alexander Hirschle.

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D, Verkehr, Spruenge, Wolke, Netzwerk, Lastwagen, Gebaeude, Dach
EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D, Verkehr, Entfernung, Netzwerk, Lastwagen, Distanz, Kontrolle, Smart, Intelligent, Sportwagen, Straße, Sicherheit

For that reason, developers like Alexander Hirschle and Jacek Burger want to teach the machines how to think, with the aid of neural networks. In simple terms, these are mathematical constructs that attempt to simulate the human brain’s decision-making processes. The major advantage of artificial intelligence for autonomous driving is that the algorithms can also better assess situations which have not been explicitly programmed in beforehand. To do this, they look for similarities to the example scenarios that were previously used to train them.

The potential of self-learning algorithms is far from exhausted, says Jacek Burger. “With increasing computing power, more and more applications will be feasible.” However, experts like Jacek Burger and Alexander Hirschle stress that it will still be a while before artificial intelligence completely takes control. Technical aspects are not the only issues that need to be resolved. A number of social and ethical questions also remain unanswered.

The site manager completely understands that people are still wary of this technology – and, ultimately, driving has been considered such an enjoyable activity for so long that BMW has kept the slogan “sheer driving pleasure” to this day. Will it become the “the sheer pleasure of being driven” in the future? Alexander Hirschle’s prediction is clear: “Future generations will wonder why we wanted to sit behind the steering wheel ourselves instead of using the journey time sensibly.”

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D, Verkehr, Kontrolle, Smart, Intelligent, Sportwagen, Straße, Sicherheit, Windschutzscheibe, Digital, Screen, Komfort

Innovative technology and networking are not only revolutionising the car of the future, but also the way it is manufactured. EDAG engineers are playing a major role in setting the course for the future.

The assembly island floats along silently. A factory worker is standing ready, waiting to install an electric motor. Wearing special glasses, he can look at construction plans and circuit diagrams, leaf through them and retrieve the relevant data sheets. Should there be any problems, he can even make contact with the various experts stationed at different points around the factory and have a live conversation about what could be missing from the unit. Everyone looks at the object in a virtual environment using their special glasses and can superimpose their own documents, handle the object in real time and point to particular features.

EDAG, Group, Kontrolle, Firma, Fabrik, Kompetenz, Lager, Ausrüstung, Smart, Intelligent, Pruefung, Qualitaet, digital, Virtual, Reality, Brille, Finger, Touch, Akkurat, Genau, Screen, Arm, Greifarm, Roboter
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Only a few years ago, this would have looked like a scene from a science fiction film, but these techniques are already being used in practice today in the automotive industry. Still far too rarely though, say the experts.

It all looks fairly uncomplicated on all the PowerPoint presentations, but in reality users find themselves lost in a wilderness again. How can they sensibly collect all the data that is generated during production and put it into a format that enables it to be further processed and analysed in higher-level IT systems?

“EDAG is finding the way through the AI wilderness. This is precisely where our specialisation lies: in consistently implementing AI from the production level through to linking to IT platforms in order to make the smart factory and Industry 4.0 a reality,” says Christopher Reuß, head of the Production IT department at EDAG.

He says it is crucial to have a consistent concept from the production level all the way up to the platforms. This makes it possible to process the large volumes of data – which is mostly in the cloud – and analyse it and draw conclusions, thus converting it into valuable information for different target audiences in the company.

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EDAG has been actively involved with Industry 4.0 and the smart factory for many years now. Automation engineers and all other non-IT-domain experts at the production level, or OT for short, work together with experts at the IT level. “Our automation teams have many years of experience at the production level and in many cases have already gained extensive expert knowledge in market-leading automation technology companies or with their customers. At the same time, they are accustomed to working with our IT experts; they have long since moved past the typical misunderstandings that might occur. At EDAG, these two worlds, which frequently opposed each other up to now, have grown together,” says Reuß.

The building of a bridge between OT and IT does not mean that all the problems have been overcome, but it has enabled a basic requirement for successful Industry 4.0 projects to be established: to collect data from its different sources – plants, machines and sensors of different ages from different manufacturers with different data formats – and bring it all together in a uniform format so that is accessible for analysis in the IoT platforms.

When setting the course in the direction of digital transformation, Reuß sees EDAG as a leading international service provider with a wide range of products and services in all fields relating to the smart factory, with strong IT expertise on the one hand and production know-how on the other.

He says that is why EDAG is already intensively engaged in further expanding its international presence in order to become even more global. Today, for example, EDAG Product Solutions (PS) already generates a large share of its sales outside Germany. Although digitisation growth rates are also continuing to show an upward trend in Germany, EDAG expects to be able to achieve more substantial growth proportionately in other regions of the world, especially Asia.

Forschung, Wissenschaft, Zukunft, Lernen, Studieren, Graph, Schulung , Taktik, System, Elaborieren, Diskussion, Gruppe, EDAG, Group, Fortschritt, Teamwork, Konzept, Innovation, Gemeinsam, Interesse

From IQ to WeQ

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Combining knowledge and expertise leads to a transformation of the culture of collaboration and innovation. Professor Ulrich Weinberg of the School of Design Thinking at Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam talks about paths towards new ways of thinking and the ever-increasing opportunities for development.

Professor Weinberg, Archimedes of Syracuse is said to have shouted “Eureka – I have found it!” after discovering Archimedes’ Principle while sitting in his bathtub. Some 2,000 years later, how much do we still rely on lone geniuses having flashes of inspiration in order to produce breakthrough innovations?

Prof. Ulrich Weinberg: There are still ingenious individuals who move society forward with their radical ideas, which benefits us all. But nowadays, we also have a whole other set of tools and networking opportunities available to us that Archimedes did not. These enable us to work together in international teams in a way that extends beyond borders and continents. In doing so, we can bring together various areas of expertise and find solutions that someone on their own would not be able to manage as quickly or with such wide-ranging perspectives. The potential offered by collaboration in teams needs to be exploited much more than it is at present.

What is the best way to harness this potential?

Prof. Weinberg: We always need the knowledge of experts and well-trained engineers. If I had to have an operation on my knee, I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable if the medical team all knew a great deal about operations but none of them had ever picked up a scalpel before. I would far rather find myself in the hands of an experienced surgeon. In other words, we still need the experience and specialist knowledge of individuals.

Forschung, Wissenschaft, Zukunft, Lernen, Studieren, Mann, Postit, Zuhoeren, Fortschritt, Blick, Intelligenz, EDAG

What makes this type of new thinking different from traditional approaches to knowledge?

Prof. Weinberg: Conventional linear thinking has had its day when it comes to digitisation. In engineering, it is not particularly effective to execute a rigid five-year plan with ten milestones. There are now so many disparate influencing factors and interdependencies also contributing to the pressure for digital change – for example in material development, modified process architectures or new energy systems. All of these help to accelerate the process significantly. So, it no longer makes sense just to keep following a linear pattern. It’s much more important for us to initiate an agile process involving iterative loops, thus making dynamic engineering possible while also allowing scope for mistakes and recalibration.

How can that be done?

Prof. Weinberg: Anyone aiming to innovate should not start by looking at what is technically possible, but should first of all ask themselves for whom and what purpose a new product is to be developed. Innovations need to make sense for their users, otherwise they will be superfluous at best. Therefore, unlike many approaches in science and practice, the design thinking process is firmly centred on user needs and requirements, as well as user-oriented invention. We look at the problem through the user’s eyes, thus taking on the role of the person who will actually use the end product.

Coming out of silos, getting to grips with the unknown – what do developers need to adapt nowadays to achieve an innovative advantage? Or to put it another way, what should they be capable of doing?

Prof. Weinberg: When it comes to innovation, incorporating cultural diversity into one’s thinking is also always really important. Specifically, this means being able to speak several languages well and feeling confident in other cultural environments in which there are different ways of thinking, speaking, working and living. This calls for a very open attitude and a huge willingness to learn, not only during the training stages but everywhere at all times.

Personal profile
Prof. Ulrich Weinberg has been head of the School of Design Thinking at Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam since 2007. He is also a co-founder and honorary president of the WeQ Foundation and the Global Design Thinking Alliance. In his book “Network Thinking – Beyond Brockhaus Thinking” he calls for radical new ways of thinking in education and business.

The power of the collective

Forschung, Wissenschaft, Zukunft, Fortschritt, Entwicklung, Prozess, Entwicklungsprozess, collectivio, Ingenieur, Technik, EDAG, Group, Schwarm, Intelligenz, Autonom, Fahrzeug, Auto, Kollektiv, Konzept

Implementing tomorrow’s development processes today: with #collectivio and knowledge from the Internet, EDAG has successfully implemented the first live engineering project in automotive history. The result is an engineering revolution: the swarm-intelligent autonomous vehicle as a collective concept.

No more traffic congestion, no more endless searching for a parking space – and air so clean that nobody mentions driving bans anymore. “In the city of tomorrow, there are no longer any private modes of transport as we know them today, beyond cyclists and pedestrians. Mobility will become more important than owning a car,” says Johannes Barckmann, director of design at independent engineering company EDAG. The cars that travel on the roads will be part of a large transport system, guided by swarm intelligence.

EDAG, Group, Messe, Stand, Unternehmen, Leute, Schwarm, Talk, Gespraech, Praesentation, Fotograf, Kollektiv

Transport will be organised like an ant colony. These tiny creatures carry out complex logistical tasks in the natural world without any central control. “The cars of the future will move through the city’s streets in exactly this way. Traffic lights will not be needed and there will be no more traffic congestion,” predicts Barckmann.

The Internet has made this type of swarm intelligence possible. Consumers come together spontaneously to exchange information or goods. They give free rein to their enthusiasm or their protests. Managers in companies have to accept this and rethink their position. Mistakes are difficult to hide. Nowadays people decide for themselves what is best for them and when, how and where. Decisions are made collectively without anyone taking the lead. The top-down principle gives way to a bottom-up approach.

This changes the development of vehicles and business models. “New ways of thinking and acting are required for the mobility of the future,” says Johannes Barckmann. It will be difficult to win users over in future with existing methods. He adds that the speed with which technologies and social trends are changing has increased rapidly. In a time when a new and better mobile phone is launched every year, cars quickly seem outdated. For Barckmann, this indicates a clear to-do list for the industry: “Development cycles need to be shorter. The future of engineering is interactive, democratic and fast.”

EDAG, Group, Messe, Stand, Unternehmen, Leute, Schwarm, Talk, Gespraech, Praesentation, Kollektiv, Kollegen, Lachen, Laecheln, Diskussion

Two years ago, at the IAA motor show in Frankfurt, EDAG initiated the first live development of a vehicle – with the help of the intelligence of the masses. Six EDAG specialists from the fields of design, vehicle architecture, graphical user interfaces (HMI), app development, business cases and virtual reality worked together with numerous participants from a range of technical backgrounds from the Internet to develop the visionary mobility concept #collectivio. “Our vision was to develop an intelligent, autonomous swarm vehicle with the involvement of an open collective network of people. This vehicle would move around the city of the future to complete various tasks independently, similar to the way blood circulates around the body,” explains Barckmann.

EDAG, Automotive, Brand, Contest, IAA 2017, Produktdesign, Markenkommunikation, Form, Formgebung, collectivio, Projekt, Preis, Auszeichnung

Anyone wanting to get involved could participate directly in the development of the vehicle via social media. The team of developers received more than 1,000 suggestions and contributions during the motor show. No ideas were off limits. “Around 20 per cent of the contributions were of a quality that made them at least worth thinking about,” says Barckmann, summarising the result of the experiment.

EDAG, Automotive, Brand, Contest, IAA 2017, Produktdesign, Markenkommunikation, Form, Formgebung, collectivio, Projekt, Praesentation, Design, Group, Gruen

In the case of #collectivio, it was clear after three days what the design of the car would look like. “One of the most important points is the interaction between human and machine. This ideally needs to be as intuitive and straightforward as possible,” says Barckmann, summing up one of the community’s demands. Human-machine communication also includes car-to-car communication, i.e. the Internet of Things. Networked vehicles are capable of helping each other. For example, if a #collectivio sees a passenger waving at it at the side of the road but is already occupied or has another job to do, it passes the journey request on straight away to available cars in the immediate vicinity.

The conclusion reached after the live engineering project was that there are many visions of what mobility will look like in the future. Barckmann says: “Even though the #collectivio started out as an experiment, it convincingly demonstrated what kind of innovative methodological and conceptual approaches are necessary and possible for the mobility of the future.”

When cars learn to think

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D

Computer systems in vehicles are still there to provide assistance to drivers, but increasingly they are also taking over at the wheel themselves in the form of artificial intelligence. EDAG is developing innovative software in this field at its sites in Ulm and Lindau. The work of the specialist developers involves dealing with probabilities, self-learning algorithms and, frequently, moral issues.

The work of many software developers never actually leaves the virtual world. Their lines of programming code, written on a computer, often only trigger actions on a screen. But that is not the case when Alexander Hirschle and his team take to their keyboards. The code they are working on today will be able to move one or two tonnes of steel tomorrow – in a very real sense in the analogue world. “That’s what makes my job so incredibly exciting,” says the engineer.

Hirschle is in charge of EDAG’s sites in Ulm and Lindau, where a total of 40 software developers are busy working on self-driving cars or, more precisely, their software. The vehicles need to learn to recognise their surroundings, interpret them and make informed decisions depending on the situation. It is a daunting task – and if it is achieved, it won’t only transform the automotive industry.

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Fortschritt, Forschung, Punkte, Berge, Dynamisch, 3D

“Self-driving cars will make mobility possible for everyone,” says Alexander Hirschle. “Young or old, poor or rich – we’ll all be chauffeured around.” However, there is still a long way to go before then. Alexander Hirschle does not dare to predict when the technology might be ready for the market. “I hope I’ll still be around to see it,” says the 32-year-old. His team is currently working with experts from a major automotive supplier to develop algorithms that are initially designed to make semi-autonomous driving possible. This means that a computer takes the wheel for long periods of time, but the human driver needs to be able to intervene at any point.

This precursor to autonomous driving is fascinating for experts and non-experts alike. “It’s a strange feeling at first to rely completely on software when you’re in the car,” says Jacek Burger, who manages the artificial intelligence (AI) division at EDAG in Lindau. Many times, Burger has sat with his laptop on the passenger seat during test drives on routes in Germany, Italy and Spain so he can monitor how well the algorithms devised in the office actually perform in practice.

“It’s similar to chess: you’re trying to predict someone else’s next move,” explains Alexander Hirschle. “But in our case, we need to be absolutely sure before we make each move.” To ensure this, automated cars have a wealth of hardware on board. In addition to cameras, they use radar and laser systems to capture data on the surrounding environment. But even though all these sensors provide the same information in optimum conditions, in practice the individual technologies frequently have their limits. For example, cameras have problems with backlit conditions, lasers fail quickly when they encounter reflective surfaces and radar systems simply see right through plastic.

Assistance systems also still function separately from one another. The challenge now is to pool the data and process it centrally. As well as powerful control hardware, which is being developed at the EDAG sites in Regensburg and Fulda as well as other places, this also requires the right software. “The more information from sensors that we can obtain and amalgamate, the more precise the calculations are,” says Alexander Hirschle.

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D, Verkehr, Spruenge, Wolke, Netzwerk, Lastwagen, Gebaeude, Dach

For that reason, developers like Alexander Hirschle and Jacek Burger want to teach the machines how to think, with the aid of neural networks. In simple terms, these are mathematical constructs that attempt to simulate the human brain’s decision-making processes. The major advantage of artificial intelligence for autonomous driving is that the algorithms can also better assess situations which have not been explicitly programmed in beforehand. To do this, they look for similarities to the example scenarios that were previously used to train them.

EDAG, Group, Design, Zukunft, Auto, Wellen, Baum, Animiert, Animierung, Render, Rendering, Smart, Auto, Fahrzeug, Fortschritt, Forschung, 3D, Verkehr, Entfernung, Netzwerk, Lastwagen, Distanz, Kontrolle, Smart, Intelligent, Sportwagen, Straße, Sicherheit

The potential of self-learning algorithms is far from exhausted, says Jacek Burger. “With increasing computing power, more and more applications will be feasible.” However, experts like Jacek Burger and Alexander Hirschle stress that it will still be a while before artificial intelligence completely takes control. Technical aspects are not the only issues that need to be resolved. A number of social and ethical questions also remain unanswered.

The site manager completely understands that people are still wary of this technology – and, ultimately, driving has been considered such an enjoyable activity for so long that BMW has kept the slogan “sheer driving pleasure” to this day. Will it become the “the sheer pleasure of being driven” in the future? Alexander Hirschle’s prediction is clear: “Future generations will wonder why we wanted to sit behind the steering wheel ourselves instead of using the journey time sensibly.”

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Industry 4.0

Innovative technology and networking are not only revolutionising the car of the future, but also the way it is manufactured. EDAG engineers are playing a major role in setting the course for the future.

The assembly island floats along silently. A factory worker is standing ready, waiting to install an electric motor. Wearing special glasses, he can look at construction plans and circuit diagrams, leaf through them and retrieve the relevant data sheets. Should there be any problems, he can even make contact with the various experts stationed at different points around the factory and have a live conversation about what could be missing from the unit. Everyone looks at the object in a virtual environment using their special glasses and can superimpose their own documents, handle the object in real time and point to particular features.

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Only a few years ago, this would have looked like a scene from a science fiction film, but these techniques are already being used in practice today in the automotive industry. Still far too rarely though, say the experts.

It all looks fairly uncomplicated on all the PowerPoint presentations, but in reality users find themselves lost in a wilderness again. How can they sensibly collect all the data that is generated during production and put it into a format that enables it to be further processed and analysed in higher-level IT systems?

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“EDAG is finding the way through the AI wilderness. This is precisely where our specialisation lies: in consistently implementing AI from the production level through to linking to IT platforms in order to make the smart factory and Industry 4.0 a reality,” says Christopher Reuß, head of the Production IT department at EDAG.

He says it is crucial to have a consistent concept from the production level all the way up to the platforms. This makes it possible to process the large volumes of data – which is mostly in the cloud – and analyse it and draw conclusions, thus converting it into valuable information for different target audiences in the company.

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EDAG has been actively involved with Industry 4.0 and the smart factory for many years now. Automation engineers and all other non-IT-domain experts at the production level, or OT for short, work together with experts at the IT level. “Our automation teams have many years of experience at the production level and in many cases have already gained extensive expert knowledge in market-leading automation technology companies or with their customers. At the same time, they are accustomed to working with our IT experts; they have long since moved past the typical misunderstandings that might occur. At EDAG, these two worlds, which frequently opposed each other up to now, have grown together,” says Reuß.

The building of a bridge between OT and IT does not mean that all the problems have been overcome, but it has enabled a basic requirement for successful Industry 4.0 projects to be established: to collect data from its different sources – plants, machines and sensors of different ages from different manufacturers with different data formats – and bring it all together in a uniform format so that is accessible for analysis in the IoT platforms.

When setting the course in the direction of digital transformation, Reuß sees EDAG as a leading international service provider with a wide range of products and services in all fields relating to the smart factory, with strong IT expertise on the one hand and production know-how on the other.

He says that is why EDAG is already intensively engaged in further expanding its international presence in order to become even more global. Today, for example, EDAG Product Solutions (PS) already generates a large share of its sales outside Germany. Although digitisation growth rates are also continuing to show an upward trend in Germany, EDAG expects to be able to achieve more substantial growth proportionately in other regions of the world, especially Asia.

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